March 26 City of Santa Monica Update from Council member Sue Himmelrich:
· Santa Monica has 18 confirmed cases of coronavirus today, a modest increase from 16 yesterday. Our hospitals remain at normal capacity as Countywide current hospitalizations for coronavirus is at just 43 (the cumulative total of 160 also counts those who’ve been treated and released)
· Our coronavirus hotline – (310) 458-8400 is handling a large volume of calls along with our special email firstname.lastname@example.org
· The Federal stimulus package unfortunately provides direct funding only to communities over 500,000. We will have to apply through whatever mechanism and formula our State devises for aid beyond specific reimbursement for emergency costs through FEMA.
· Local hospitals and clinics are providing testing to those with symptoms. LA is doing the same with drive-through sites by online appointment. Currently doing about 1000 tests a day citywide, as they ramp up to their goal of 5000 a day, they expect to open it up to all County residents. Our staff visited one of their sites, where individuals drive up, self-administer the tests in their vehicles and then deposit them in a bag for forwarding to a test lab. The nearest site to Santa Monica is Jackie Robinson Stadium at the VA near UCLA.
· While prisoners are being released from County jail, crime continues to be lower than normal.
· Beaches and recreation areas continue to be an issue. We collaborated with LA to close off the two staircases off Adelaide that descend to the Santa Monica Canyon. LA closed the popular Runyan Canyon trail. South Bay cities are announcing a beach closure. Despite rumors, County Public Health has not advised beach or trail closures, only social distancing.
· Construction continues to be an issue. We continue to clarify that virtually all construction remains an exempted “essential” activity under both State and County orders.
· The City Council is cancelling the regular April 14 meeting. The next anticipated meeting will be April 28 and will be conducted online.
· We have expanded our map showing restaurants with take-out to cover a range of essential services (grocery stores, restaurants, pharmacies, and more) including special hours.
· Clean Power Alliance shares this info for electricity customers: The one-stop shop for customers to take advantage of these measures is the SCE bill payment assistance call center at 800-655-4555.
o For customers economically impacted by Covid-19 fallout, a variety of flexible payment plans are available. Via SCE’s call center, customers can self-identify as being impacted and be put on a payment plan that covers both the CPA side and the SCE side of the bill. Customers do not have to signup separately with CPA and these payment plans are not limited to low-income customers but to anyone who needs it.
o Low income customers – i.e. those who are on CARE rates – are eligible for up to $100 of grant assistance to pay their bills. SCE administers this program and CPA’s CARE customers are eligible. Customers should call SCE to request this assistance.
o Also suspended are eligibility checks to sign up for CARE. So, if a customer is newly eligible or is just learning about the program, signing up for CARE has been further streamlined and those customers are eligible for a 30% bill discount going forward. This application may be completed online at https://www.sce.com/apps/iqp
o Disconnections for non-payment of bills have been suspended and late-payment fees have been waived. This is automatic, applies to both CPA and SCE charges, and customers do not have to do have to do anything to receive this protection. This protection does not mean that charges are waived, only the penalties are suspended, so we highly encourage customers who are having trouble paying their bills to take advantage of the payment plans and financial assistance being offered.
· The County has prepared updated versions of “Frequently Asked Questions” on #StayAtHome in English and Spanish. See https://covid19.lacounty.gov/covid19/safer-at-home-faq/.
· Property taxes: Some have asked about relief from property taxes on April 10. It appears that no such relief is in sight. From the County Assessor’s page, I copied the following (this is a partial clip):
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Impact to Property Taxes Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Prepared by the County of Los Angeles Tax Collector
1. Can you extend the April 10, 2020 deadline?
Answer: No. The County does not have the authority under State law to extend or postpone the second installment property tax deadline of April 10, 2020.
2. County buildings are no longer open to the public, what are my payment options?
Answer: Although we are not accepting in-person payments currently at our offices, taxpayers can pay online, via telephone or by mail. There is no cost for e-Check payments online. For online credit/debit card transactions, our card payment processor charges a 2.25 percent service fee. Please visit https://ttc.lacounty.gov/ to review all payment methods, and several other online self-service options.
3. What if I am unable to make a full property tax payment by April 10, 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19?
Answer: We encourage all property owners who can pay their taxes on time to do so. This revenue helps keep the government running and providing vital services that the public relies on, especially in times like these. However, if you are unable to do so, we accept partial payments which reduces the amount of penalties imposed.
4. Can I request a penalty cancellation if I am unable to make a timely payment due to COVID-19?
Answer: Yes. However, a penalty cancellation is not something that taxpayers request in advance. Beginning on April 11, the day after property taxes become delinquent, taxpayers unable to pay on time for reasons related to COVID-19 may submit a request for penalty cancellation on our website. The department has set up a special team to process these requests for those who demonstrate they were affected by the outbreak.
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