Two-thirds of California taxpayers still await COVID-19 stimulus checks announced by Gov. Newsom about two months ago – and they likely will have to wait longer.
The checks are part of an extension of the Golden State Stimulus program, which originally distributed $3.8 billion to low-income residents in the form of one-time payments of $600, according to the nonprofit Cal Matters. This second set of stimulus checks would provide a one-time payment of $600 to middle-class residents earning up to $75,000, as well as a $500 check to qualifying residents with dependents.
The program’s extension comes from Newsom’s $100 billion California Comeback Plan – the largest economic recovery package in the state’s history, according to the governor’s official website. Newsom said the state’s budget surplus of $75.7 billion would go toward expediting the Golden State’s pandemic recovery – bringing “California roaring back” – by addressing core issues such as economic relief, homelessness and housing affordability, infrastructure and public education.
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"$600 checks are coming to 2/3 of Californians. And if you have a kid, you can benefit from an additional $500," Newsom said on Twitter on May 11.
Newsom acknowledged at the time that the proposal required approval from the state legislature to go into effect. But he got that when the California legislature approved a $262.6 billion state budget at the end of June, which included the distribution of the Golden State Stimulus checks.
However, that has been the last major development in the effort to expand the Golden State Stimulus. Newsom has yet to sign the budget into law, according to the state budget’s official website, preventing stimulus checks from going out to residents.
Daniel Tahara, a public information officer from the California Franchise Tax Board, a state tax collection agency, said the governor’s authorization of the budget is critical in moving forward.
“FTB’s role is to administer the tax laws,” Tahara wrote in an email to USA TODAY. “The second Golden State Stimulus program doesn’t become an official tax law until the governor signs the budget.”
Newsom hasn’t said why he hasn't signed the budget into law. Grace Papish, a communications assistant for Newsom, said the governor’s office doesn’t “typically comment on pending legislation” and will provide more information “once the budget is finalized.”
“The second set of Golden State Stimulus checks is still a proposal and part of the budget that is yet to be signed,” Newsom’s press office wrote in an email to USA TODAY. “Once the budget is signed, the second round of the stimulus checks can start rolling out.”
Tahara said the agency continues to monitor the budget’s status and expects stimulus check payments to start going out in September. Tahara said this estimated timeline is based on the amount of time it took to process the first set of Golden State Stimulus checks.
Daniel J.B. Mitchell, an economics expert and professor from the University of California Los Angeles, said pandemic-aid programs put a logistical strain on the state system that can create delay in doling out other government benefits, such as the Golden State Stimulus checks.
Mitchell said another factor influencing the delay may be a lack of effective management at the state government level. Mitchell said California policymakers don’t have the best track record when it comes to implementing policy, which can complicate the execution of certain policy items.
“California is good at creating policies, but sometimes not so good at managing [and/or] administering them,” Mitchell said. “Policymakers often don't have a lot of experience in management and may not always understand the complexities of actually delivering services.”