California Leads the Way in Massive COVID-19 Budget Deficits

Mark Rightmire/Orange County Register via ZUMA

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From the LA Times:

Gov. Gavin Newsom says that unemployment in California amid the COVID-19 pandemic has far exceeded what it was during the peak of the Great Recession, with 4.7 million people filing for jobless benefits, requiring the state to borrow billions of dollars more from the federal government to cover claims. At a news conference Thursday to present a revised state budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, Newsom said the state will need $43.8 billion to cover unemployment claims in the new year, a 650% increase over what was originally proposed.

The federal government is covering the $600 per week bonus payment to unemployed workers, but state governments are still responsible for base unemployment benefits. Thanks to COVID-19, this has skyrocketed from about $6 billion to $44 billion in California, and every other state is facing a similar situation.

And that’s just the start. Not only are expenses going up, but revenue from sales taxes and income taxes have cratered. The result is massive cuts in education, Medicaid, and social welfare programs for the poor. And since California, like most states, is required to balance its budget, there’s no way around this unless the federal government comes through with a huge aid package. At the moment, though, there’s no telling whether Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans are willing to do this. They are willing to urge everyone to engage in behavior that will make the COVID-19 pandemic even worse, but so far that’s about all they’ve been willing to commit to.

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We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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