Newsletter: Creating Change

Dear Friends,

I hope you and your loved ones are well. Included in this newsletter are important updates on EDD, my growing District team, which is here to serve you, and our response to the pandemic. Concerned about the pace of the initial vaccine rollout, my team and I have been doing everything we can to improve the efficiency and speed of the state vaccine program and to support our counties, which have been leading the way on successful, high-volume vaccination clinics.

I’ve been focused on these five aspects:

  • How the vaccines are being administered
  • Who administers them
  • Who is being vaccinated
  • The sign-up process
  • Data and transparency

The good news is that much progress has been made in our district. I’m so happy that health workers and vulnerable seniors are getting the vaccine.

And I’m pleased to report progress on my efforts to prioritize teachers and early childhood education and care workers for access to the COVID vaccine, a push I began soon after taking office. Teachers, ECE, food and farm workers, and first responders became eligible for shots on Monday in San Mateo County. These essential workers become eligible for the vaccine in Santa Clara County starting February 28. Earlier this month, I called for our counties to align local eligibility with the state’s guidance. KCBS interviewed me about the importance of prioritizing teachers (you can listen to that report here), and The Almanac reported on San Mateo County’s decision soon after to expand the vaccine eligibility pool (the article is here).

I thank SMC Board of Supervisors President David Canepa, the board, and Superintendent of Schools Nancy Magee for their support. I also thank officials in both counties for listening and protecting teachers and ECE staff as essential workers. Like other parents, I don’t need studies to tell me about the toll distance learning is taking on our kids, we see it every day. Vaccinating teachers and beginning to safely reopen schools will be the most meaningful move yet to return to normalcy for everyone.

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I’m also advocating for more county control of the vaccination process, simplifying vaccination sign-ups and improving transparency, especially on the number of doses supplied to our counties and health providers, the number of shots administered, and data about who is receiving the shots. We must ensure that our most vulnerable communities have access to the vaccine.

I got a firsthand look at some of the great work being done in our communities on January 30, when the Ravenswood Family Health Center in East Palo Alto held a vaccination clinic for patients 65+ and health workers. Visit the health center’s website for information on its vaccine clinics for patients.

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I also was blown away by the phenomenal organization and efficiency of San Mateo County’s high-volume vaccination site at the Event Center. I met the incredible crew heading up the drive-through operation earlier this month.

The county stepped up its high-volume vaccination program with a drive-through clinic last week at San Francisco International Airport for thousands of residents 65+.

For the latest information on vaccination availability and sign-ups:

San Mateo County residents can visit smchealth.org/covidvaccine

Santa Clara County residents can visit sccfreevax.com

You can sign up at the state’s site, myturn.ca.gov, to be notified when you’re eligible to sign up for a vaccination. San Mateo County officials urge residents to also sign up with the county’s notification tool, which is available on the SMC Health vaccine page, to make sure all their bases are covered.

Here are more updates:

Events – I’m working with the Small Business Majority on a town hall about the California Rebuilding Fund and other resources available to small business owners. Here is information on how to join us at 9:30 a.m. Friday, February 26.

Dr. Mark Adams, El Camino Health's Chief Medical Officer, and Dr. Anand Chabra, San Mateo County Health's Section Chief for COVID-19 Mass Vaccination, joined me for a town hall in January about our counties’ response to the pandemic. I thank them for their great participation and thank the 300+ people who tuned in or have watched the video. You can view it here.

Also last month, I was honored to be Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Kevin Mullin’s guest on the inaugural episode of his online program “Conversations with Kevin.” Please click the link if you’d like to watch it.

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Under the Dome - Earlier this month, as a member of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, I attended a hearing in the Capitol on the Employment Development Department and the State Auditor’s scathing reports on EDD’s abysmal lack of preparedness, the missteps that led to a mind-boggling $10.4 billion in payments on fraudulent claims, and a clumsy response to the massive fraud that left tens of thousands of unemployed Californians languishing while their bank accounts were frozen.

Responding to my questions in the hearing, new EDD Director Rita Saenz told me and my colleagues that she would look to other states for successful best practices. She also promised EDD would do better. (You can watch the video of my questions and the answers here.) Two days later, another EDD bombshell landed: People who expected to have their benefits extended right after Christmas will instead be without payments until March 7 because of a tech problem. This is not “doing better.” The Chronicle included my comments in its coverage of the latest EDD fail. I and my colleagues in the Legislature continue to press for EDD reform.

Legislation - I'm proud to be among the coauthors of the much-needed Senate Bill 87 by my colleagues Senator Anna Caballero (D-Salinas) and Senator Dave Min (D-Irvine). SB 87, part of the pandemic relief package just signed by Governor Gavin Newsom, will provide more than $2 billion in grants for small businesses and nonprofits. These grants will be critical to helping our small businesses overcome the economic challenges created by the pandemic.

Before I close, it’s important for you to know about the incredible work of my District Office staff: District Director Nicole Fernandez and colleagues Alex Kobayashi, Joan Dentler, Margaret Cantrell and Alexandria Bernabe. My progress on vaccine issues, the response to all the calls for assistance on EDD and other constituents’ requests for help, my town halls and many more district activities would not be possible without this dedicated team. They played an integral role in almost every update I’ve shared with you today. I’m proud that they are working with me to serve you.

We are here to help. For constituent services, please call my District Office at 650-212-3313 or contact me and my office via email. You can also visit my website, sd13.senate.ca.gov, for more information about my work in the legislature and our district resources. I also encourage you to follow me on Twitter @SenJoshBecker.

Sincerely,

Josh Becker
Senator, 13th District