Welcome to the 75th issue of the California Coronavirus Weekly Recap newsletter.
Before we get started with this week’s news, we want to make sure you’re aware of a free California rent relief webinar for housing providers, hosted by C.A.R. and moderated by C.A.R. President Dave Walsh. If you’re a housing provider, register to learn how you can get financial assistance under the California Rent Relief Program. Dave will be joined by Deputy Director Geoffrey Ross of the Business, Consumer Services & Housing Agency to give a briefing on AB 832 and the updates it makes to state eviction protections and the COVID-19 Rent Relief program, with a focus on rental assistance. The webinar is scheduled for Aug. 23, 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. Register here.
In This Issue:
- The Economy & Your Finances: US jobless claims near pandemic low, California unemployment rising
- The Market & Industry: Eviction moratorium upheld for now
- Around the State: Cases and hospitalizations slow but may rise as schools
- Health Check-Up: Booster shots likely to be advised
The Economy & Your Finances: US jobless claims near pandemic low, California unemployment still risingU.S. jobless claims fell for a third straight week, evidence that employers are laying off fewer people as they struggle to fill a record number of open jobs and meet a rise in consumer demand. Jobless claims fell by 12,000, to 375,000 from 387,000. Before the pandemic, jobless claims were typically around 220,000 per week.
A total of about 12 million people are receiving unemployment benefits, down from 13 million only the week prior. That drop indicates that more Americans are getting jobs and no longer receiving unemployment benefits. Another factor is that several states have canceled the federal program in which self-employed people could apply for unemployment benefits, as well as a separate program for the long-term unemployed (defined as those who have been searching for a job for 27 weeks or longer).
By contrast, last week unemployment claims in California rose to the highest level in three months. Californian workers filed 68,556 initial claims for unemployment, up from 62,209 from the week before. This was the highest number of new claims since late May. The set-back surprised some experts who had predicted a quicker recovery for California. One factor may be that schools are starting to open up and there is concern about what may happen with new cases, especially as there is still a severe lack of childcare that keeps people home to care for their children.
Californians receiving unemployment benefits, including those on PUA, are required to look for work to maintain their eligibility. However, there is some flexibility. Californians receiving PUA or unemployment may not have to look for jobs in order to receive payments if they need to care for a child and their school or childcare center is closed as a direct result of the COVID public health emergency and they have explored all reasonable alternatives for finding childcare, or if they have been laid off due to a seasonal shutdown or a trade dispute. REALTORS® who are self-employed or independent contractors can be counted as looking for work if they include activities to resume or rebuild their business, find new clients, engage in marketing efforts, or obtain independent contracting work. EDD strongly urges PUA recipients to keep a detailed record of their work search efforts.
On September 4, 2021, the following federally-funded unemployment programs will end: the federal increase of $300 per week for all unemployment benefits; the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program; and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program. An estimated 2 million Californians will lose benefits, which can be as much as $750 a week.
On Friday, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., allowed the Biden administration’s newest eviction moratorium to remain in place, denying a request from various landlord associations to block it. She ruled that the freeze is illegal but that an appellate decision from the spring kept her from blocking the moratorium because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention likely possessed the authority to impose an eviction ban in the name of public health. The new order will buy time for the distribution of some of the more than $45 billion in rental assistance that has been approved but not yet used. The U.S. Treasury Dept. has said that only about $3 billion of the first slice of $25 billion had been distributed through June.
The Mortgage Bankers Association, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae all reported last week that the number of homeowner loans in forbearance fell again. MBA reported that 1.7 million homeowners were still in forbearance plans, a dip to 3.40 percent, and the share of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans in forbearance fell five basis points to 1.74 percent. The enrollment period for forbearance will close at the end of September.
Interest rates for 30-year fixed rate mortgages rose 2 basis points on Monday to 3.05 percent, while the 5/1 ARM rose 1 basis point to 3.07 percent and 15-year mortgages remained static at 2.33 percent.
Cases continue to rise, but more slowly than before. This week, California reported about 11,800 new cases per day, up 7 percent from last week but a slower increase than the 30 percent jump in daily cases from the week before. As of Wednesday at 10:25 a.m., cases in California numbered 4,136,055 and hospitalizations stood at 7,414. The statewide average for ICU bed availability was 23.6 percent.
As schools across California begin to open up this week, experts advise that wearing masks and getting everyone vaccinated who can be (students 11 years old and younger cannot yet be vaccinated) will be crucial to protect vulnerable populations from the spread of the super-infectious Delta variant. Joining Marin County in mandating vaccinations for faculty and staff, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) recently announced that all teachers and staff who regularly steps on a school campus must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 15. The requirement was approved by the teachers union, and is in addition to the state’s mandate that all California school employees must be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing.
The Delta variant is the main driver of case increases, which has caused some officials to reinstate masking requirements and to mandate vaccines for some workers. Another new variant, the Lambda variant which was first reported in Peru and is spreading across South America, has been confirmed in California, though it is not yet of major concern.
As of today, 63.7 percent of Californians have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccinations, and 44,772,063 doses have been administered.
The Biden Administration is expected to announce that it will support Americans getting booster shots eight months after they completed their COVID-19 vaccination. The plan is still being developed, but it would involve administering third shots beginning mid- to late-September, pending U.S. FDA authorization. Pfizer and BioNTech said on Monday that the companies have submitted initial data to the FDA to support the use of booster doses for the COVID-19 vaccines. Last week, the FDA authorized and the CDC recommended third doses for people who are immune-compromised, such as people receiving treatment for cancer, or who have received organ transplants or are taking immune-suppressing medications.
Sources: CNN, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention