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An Initial Look at Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Local Government Fiscal Condition


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The 2020-21 Budget: Overview of the California Spending Plan (Final Version)

October 5, 2020 - Each year, our office publishes the California Spending Plan to summarize the annual state budget. This publication provides an overview of the 2020‑21 Budget Act, provides a short history of the notable events in the budget process, and then highlights major features of the budget approved by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. All figures in this publication reflect the administration’s estimates of actions taken through June 30, 2020, but we have updated the narrative to reflect actions taken later in the legislative session. In addition to this publication, we have released a series of issue‑specific posts providing more detail on various programmatic aspects of the budget.

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Update on COVID-19 Spending in California

November 5, 2020 - This post provides a high-level summary of state and federal funds provided to date to respond to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In this post we discuss: (1) the authorities, at both the state and federal levels, for COVID-19 spending; (2) the state, federal, and other funding sources for COVID-19 spending; and (3) the amounts of COVID-19 spending authorized so far, organized by different purposes and program areas.

Updated 11/12/20: State and federal government spending on certain activities to control the spread of COVID-19 revised upward to $8.6 billion.

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The 2021-22 Budget: Overview of the Spending Plan (Final Version)

October 27, 2021 - Each year, our office publishes the California Spending Plan to summarize the annual state budget. This publication provides an overview of the 2021-22 Budget Act, then highlights major features of the budget approved by the Legislature and signed by the Governor.

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The 2021-22 Budget: Analysis of the Medi-Cal Budget

February 16, 2021 - This post analyzes the major adjustments to the Medi-Cal budget in 2020-21 and 2021-22, with a focus on the technical adjustments such as the administration’s caseload estimates. We will further analyze the major discretionary Medi-Cal proposals in separate publications and communications to the Legislature.

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Overview of Federal Relief for K-12 Education and Child Care

April 29, 2021 - Since March 2020, the federal government has passed three relief packages that assist K-12 schools and child care providers in their response to the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. This post provides a brief summary of how the three federal relief packages affect K-12 education and child care and describes how the state has used these federal funds, as of April 2021.

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The 2021-22 Budget: Child Care Proposals

February 11, 2021 - This post analyzes the Governor’s proposal to transition state administration of child care programs. We further provide options the Legislature could consider to support child care programs during the pandemic.

Correction (2/18/2021): A previous version of this post stated DSS released a draft of the transition plan. This version is corrected to state DSS released a transition plan guide.

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State Budget Effects of Recent Federal Actions to Address COVID-19

April 5, 2020 - In recent weeks Congress has passed legislation that has directed funding to respond to the coronavirus emergency. This post discusses how some of the major pieces of funding could affect the state budget’s overall condition. In particular, we focus on how funding could help the state address some of the sources of a budget problem that could emerge as a result of the coronavirus emergency.

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The State Appropriations Limit

April 21, 2021 - This report: (1) describes how appropriations limits work for the state, school districts, and local governments in California; (2) explains why the limit is a constraint for state government; and (3) concludes with a variety of short- and long-term policy options—both of which we think the Legislature will need to take—in response to the issue.

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[PDF] The 2021-22 Budget: Improving Legislative Oversight of Emergency Spending Authorities

March 2, 2021 - In this publication, we provide an overview of the Governor’s emergency spending authorities. We assess the Governor’s 2021-22 January budget proposals to extend, modify, and expand emergency spending authorities to continue to respond to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Finally, we recommend ways to improve the oversight of emergency spending for COVID-19 as well as future emergencies.

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The 2020-21 Spending Plan: Housing and Homelessness

October 8, 2020 - This post describes the 2020-21 budget actions related to housing and homelessness issues.

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The 2019-20 Budget: Office of Emergency Services

March 13, 2019 - In this report, we assess the Governor’s 2019‑20 budget proposals for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (OES).

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The 2021-22 Budget: Interest Payment on Federal Unemployment Insurance Loan

February 10, 2021 - The 2021-22 Governor’s Budget proposes $555 million General Fund to make the first interest payment on federal loans the state received to pay unemployment insurance (UI) benefits after the UI fund became insolvent during the pandemic. Our office’s estimate of the upcoming interest payment is much lower—about $260 million. This lower estimate reflects (1) more plausible, up-to-date economic projections and (2) recent federal action to waive a portion of accrued interest for 2021. We recommend the Legislature adopt this lower placeholder amount. In addition, we recommend the Legislature take advantage of a provision of federal law that allows states to defer 75 percent of their UI loan interest payments during economic downturns. If the state chooses to partially defer its interest payment, we estimate the 2021-22 UI loan interest payment would total roughly $65 million.

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Federal COVID-19-Related Funding to California

April 28, 2020 - This post summarizes recent federal legislative and other actions to allocate funding to California and other states in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Figures in this post summarize—as comprehensively as was feasible—the amount of funding that we expect to flow to governments and other public entities in California from the federal government. We also describe the major COVID-19-related federal funding that we expect to flow directly to private Californian entities, such as individuals and businesses.

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The 2021-22 Budget: Analysis of the Governor’s CalWORKs Proposals

February 3, 2021 - In this post, we provide important background on California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs), updates on how caseload has been affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and analyze the Governor’s proposed CalWORKs budget. In short, caseload has declined precipitously in the most recent data, reaching a new all-time low in November 2020 (the most recent month for which there are data). This runs contrary to both the Governor’s budget (which assumes a fairly rapid rate of caseload growth from 2020 through 2022) and the historic relationship between caseload and economic data (which suggests caseload should increase following increased unemployment). In line with other efforts the administration is proposing to support low-income individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic, we suggest the Legislature work with the administration to understand the factors leading to the lower than expected caseload and explore options for ensuring CalWORKs assistance reaches eligible families.

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The 2020-21 Budget: Initial Comments on the Governor’s May Revision

May 17, 2020 - On May 14, 2020, Governor Newsom presented a revised state budget proposal to the Legislature. In this post, we provide an overview of the overall budget condition under the May Revision estimates and proposals; the major actions the Governor took to close an estimated $54 billion budget gap; and give our initial comments on this budget package.

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The 2021-22 Budget: Medi-Cal Fiscal Outlook

November 18, 2020 - Medi‑Cal, the state’s Medicaid program, provides health care coverage to about 13 million of the state’s low‑income residents. Medi‑Cal costs generally are shared between the federal and state governments. In a typical year, the General Fund covers a little more than 20 percent of total Medi‑Cal costs, with federal funds and other state and local funds respectively covering the remaining 65 percent and 15 percent of total costs. In this web post, we describe the major factors that we expect to drive changes in General Fund spending in Medi‑Cal over the near term—in 2020‑21 and 2021‑22—and over the longer term through 2024‑25. We also describe a number of key assumptions that we made in our spending projections.

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[PDF] The 2020-21 Budget: California's Spring Fiscal Outlook

May 8, 2020 - This report provides an update on the budget’s condition in light of the public health emergency and economic downturn associated with the coronavirus disease 2019. Our outlook presents two potential scenarios—a somewhat optimistic “U-shaped” recession and a somewhat pessimistic “L-shaped” recession—and assumes a baseline level of expenditures. Under these two scenarios, the state would have to address an $18 billion or $31 billion budget problem. The state’s newly emergent fiscal challenges are likely to extend well beyond the end of the public health crisis. Under both of our economic scenarios, budget deficits persist until at least 2023-24 with multiyear deficits summing to $64 billion in the U-shaped recession and $126 billion in the L-shaped recession.

Video: Press Availability Video Call

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How Has COVID-19 Affected Renters and Homeowners?

January 19, 2021 - In this brief we assess how coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has affected renters and homeowners. We also provide an updated estimate of the total unpaid rental debt in California that has accumulated due to COVID-19.

Correction 1/19/21: Legend on Figure 3 corrected to match data.