Small businesses in California clueless about the new stay-at-home order

Ritu Jha-

Due to the surge of COVID-19 cases in California, governor Gavin Newsom has announced the new restrictions as cases in the state reached the highest reported since the pandemic began.

“The bottom line is if we don’t act now, our hospital system will be overwhelmed,” Newsom said. “If we don’t act now, our death rate will continue to climb.”

The new stay-at-home order starting Sunday 6 evening onwards will include restrictions on business and gathering spaces – no salons, no gyms, no indoor worship, no playgrounds. Restaurants will be allowed to offer only take-out or delivery. Retail that is already limited to 20% will be allowed to remain open, but all non-essential travel is restricted.

As of December 5, the virus has killed a total of 1, 311,625  in the US and 19,791 just in California.

Restaurant operators are not sure what to do with the new order to close both indoor and outdoor eating starting Dec 6 to stop the spread of coronavirus.

It’s ridiculous believes the restaurant owner, who just a few weeks ago bought an outside heater, folding tables, tent and hired people to make his business running.

“Don’t know what to do, we have to reevaluate again everything said,” Kalidas Raju talked on behalf of a newly formed Indo -American Restaurant Association in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Amber restaurant chief Hitesh Gautam in San Francisco echoed the same as Raju when indica News reached out to learn how they are going to work sounded low said it’s hard to ask your employees not to come.

Raju was more worried about the rent he has to pay each month. He runs two restaurants in Santa Clara County and Alameda County and both the counties has strict orders of “stay at home order.”

Newsom acknowledged that the order will be the most restrictive since the original stay-at-home order in March. “This is the most challenging moment since the start of the pandemic,” he said at a news conference.

The state has been divided into five regions: Northern California, the Bay Area, the greater Sacramento area, southern California and the San Joaquin valley. Every region but the Bay Area is expected to reach an available ICU capacity of below 15% within the next two days, Newsom said. The Bay Area should reach that point by mid-December.

But rather than waiting until Intensive Care Unit (ICU) bed availability reaches critical levels and delaying closures that are inevitable, the Health Officers for the Counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, and Santa Clara as well as the City of Berkeley, San Francisco are jointly announced that they will implement the State’s Regional Stay Home Order now.

The five regions are:

  • Northern California: Del Norte, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Mendocino, Modoc, Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama, Trinity
  • Bay Area: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma
  • Greater Sacramento: Alpine, Amador, Butte, Colusa, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, Sierra, Sutter, Yolo, Yuba
  • San Joaquin Valley: Calaveras, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, San Benito, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tulare, Tuolumne.
  • Southern California: Imperial, Inyo, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura.

Except for take out, bars and wineries must close (indoor and outdoor). Hair salons, barbershops, nail salons and other personal care services must close. All retail stores can stay open but must drop capacity to 20%. Private gatherings of any size will be prohibited.

Gautam and Raju pointed out how people who live on daily wages are the worst hit due to such lockdowns. Sumati Somani of Sewa International Bay Area Chapter that has been supporting the needy in the time of pandemic said that the people on daily wages, especially those working in restaurants are cornered by the pandemic and the measures taken to stop it.

Jhumka Banerjee, who runs a salon in San Ramon sounded low as well said just two months ago she has opened and again have to shut down, how to pay the rent she asked.

Sumati told indica News, “We paused on our food distribution and have now started some distribution of funds.”

Mahesh Patel of Sewa International who deals with people from low-income family in the Bay Area and have helped several Indian Americans who were highly affected economically due to the pandemic said, “We think that there are only rich Indians in the Silicon Valley but in places like Los Pedros Blvd. there are many Indians who are daily wage workers.”

“These are people who drive taxis, clean, cook and do other odd jobs. They have been through a lot and Sewa distributing food has helped so much. Majority in this neighborhood are Indians from two different areas in India, mostly Punjab and Gujarat,” Patel said.

Sumati told indica News that Sewa International has been involved in many Covid related initiatives including ‘COVID-19 Emergency Homelessness Prevention Program (CEHPP), which was created to help low-income families in Santa Clara county who haven’t been able to pay the rent because they lost income due to lockdown and are on the verge of becoming homeless.

“31 applications for Rental Assistance from Sewa are approved as of today since October 2020. A total $79,000 cash assistance will be provided to these 31 families by Destination: Home. SCC CARES directly pays the renters to save them from homelessness,” said Sumati.

She also added that a total of 62 household members will receive help and total 31 children that will receive help from Sewa International.

According to the report “A Study of Poverty in the Indian American Population,” research done by Devesh Kapur and Jashan Bajwaat, released at the Indiaspora Philanthropy Summit 2020, shows that 1 in 16 Indian American live in poverty and the COVID-19 pandemic may drive their number as high as one in ten. In 2018, 6.5% of Indian American households were living below the poverty line, according to the report.

In order to bring relief to small businesses who are affected by the pandemic, Governor Newsom, on Nov. 30, announced a temporary tax relief for eligible businesses impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.

The temporary tax relief entails an automatic three-month income tax extension for taxpayers filing less than $1 million in sales tax, extends the availability of existing interest and penalty-free payment agreements to companies with up to $5 million in taxable sales and provides expanded interest-free payment options for larger businesses particularly affected by significant restrictions on operations based on COVID-19 transmissions. The total tax relief, if fully utilized, is estimated to have billions in impact.

Local restaurants and businesses said they welcome the initiative by the governor but had not mentioned on rent, and the government is not giving any tax relief but has announced extension, so you have to pay the taxes. “He did not talk about relief in rent to help small businesses, ” said Raju.

Meanwhile, Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody in her statement on closing local businesses said that the city understands the closures under the State order will have a profound impact on “our local businesses,” however, if we act quickly, we can both save lives and reduce the amount of time these restrictions have to stay in place, allowing businesses and activities to reopen sooner.”

San Francisco Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragon said, “It takes several weeks for new restrictions to slow rising hospitalizations and waiting until only 15 percent of a region’s ICU beds are available is just too late.” Until today.

“We are seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations here in Contra Costa County and across our region,” said Contra Costa County Health Officer Dr. Christopher Farnitano.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel. We are a few months away from seeing real progress,” Newsom said.

“We do not anticipate having to do this once again but we all need to step up and we need to meet this moment head on and do everything we can to stem the tide, bend the curve and do everything we can necessary to get that vaccine into the hands of every Californian in the state,” he added.