Breaking budget news and Valley Girls in Outer Space
July 15, 2021
I created a San Fernando Valley Wall of Fame in my office, dedicated to people from the Valley who have made their mark. Many are famous faces from the entertainment industry, such as Robert Redford, Marilyn Monroe, Paula Abdul and Ritchie Valens. Others include a group of graffiti busters, a young student who created a COVID-19 memory quilt, and two deaf women who launched a podcast for the hearing impaired.
Our Valley has long been a breeding ground for talent of every type; including astronauts, sports stars, scientists, entertainers and even the first Second Gentleman of the United States. Through the years, Valley industry and institutions, along with demographics, have evolved, but the spirit that brought families to the Valley from places near and far is the same one that bred success for so many. Our collective responsibility is ensuring that the Valley continues to offer opportunity to future generations.
For inspiration, Heart of the Valley will feature stories about some of these Valley All-Stars. This week, we highlight two “Valley Girls” who made history in outer space. Scroll down for their fascinating “only from the Valley” story. We will also tell you about available programs and opportunities that can help your children and grandchildren blast-off in their chosen fields, including information about California being the first state in the nation to provide cost-free meals for all public schoolchildren.
As you know, in the past few newsletters we have highlighted some key funding in the California budget. In this edition, we will feature some new tranches of State money that will make a real difference. We know you are busy, but urge you to read this update for important information that may benefit you and your family.
Stay safe and be well,
BREAKING NEWS: STATE BUDGET SIGNED BY GOVERNOR
Monday evening, Governor Newsom signed the state budget. It is bold, but responsible. It will assist children, families, immigrants and small businesses; providing immediate relief to those hit hardest by the pandemic. The State budget makes critical investments in our future and quality of life. In addition to funding we previewed in earlier newsletters, some budget items that will benefit our region include:
- Golden State Stimulus money directly into the pockets of two out of every three Californians
- Small business relief, including money for microbusinesses and street vendors
- Renters assistance
- Medi-Cal expansion
- Expansion of Project Homekey and funds to cities to help combat homelessness
- Funding for affordable housing
- Universal Pre-K
- Funding for college savings accounts
- Wildfire preparation
- Climate action
- Drought response
- Building a better power grid
- Expansion of summer youth programs
- Help for those facing eviction or are behind on power and water bills
- Cost-free universal school breakfast and lunch (details below in Valley Kids section)
FUNDING TO SUPPORT BOTH ENDS OF THE LEASH
I love going out in our community because people in the Valley are so informed and passionate. During a series of meetings about homelessness, community advocates told me that many unsheltered people have pets, but few shelters permitted companion animals. This discussion lead me to write legislation that supports both ends of the leash; funding shelters that permit dogs and cats, and provide food and veterinary care for them.
Companion animals are family members. A person experiencing homelessness should not be forced to choose between the love and comfort of their pet, and shelter.
A couple of years ago, I secured $5 million to support services at “pet-friendly” shelters. This week, Governor Newsom signed legislation providing $10 million to continue these programs. There is more work to do. These vital programs should be permanent. Community members are working with me to make that happen.
VOLUNTARY WATER CONSERVATION
California is experiencing severe drought conditions that threaten the State’s water supply. Last week, Governor Newsom signed an Executive Order calling on all Californians, voluntarily, to reduce their water use by 15 percent compared to 2020 levels through simple actions such as reducing landscape irrigation, running dishwashers and washing machines only when full, finding and fixing leaks, installing water-efficient showerheads and taking shorter showers.
State officials estimate an additional 15 percent voluntary reduction by urban water users from 2020 levels could save as much as 850,000 acre-feet of water over the next year for future use, or enough to supply more than 1.7 million households for a year.
Let us all do our part to take the simple measures that will help ensure we have the water we need.
Source: Gov. Newsom press release
VAN NUYS AND LAX AIRPORTS TO ELIMINATE DISPOSIBLE WATER BOTTLES
Los Angeles has been making concerted efforts towards sustainability that will combat climate change. A new plan approved by the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners will eliminate plastic water bottles at both the Van Nuys and LAX airports by 2023. Mayor Eric Garcetti praised the development, noting that it aligns with the goal of L.A.'s Green New Deal
Instead of single-use bottles, vendors must switch to more sustainable materials, such as recyclable aluminum and glass. Once the single-use bottle ban commences, airport patrons can refill reusable bottles at water refilling stations. The ban does not apply to in-flight service.
DEFENSIBLE SPACE AND HOME HARDENING
Wildfire season is upon us and with dry conditions and high temperatures, it is important to be prepared. Creating defensible space and hardening your home are the primary preventative measures you can take to protect your home from wildfires.
Establishing defensible space is your home’s first line of protection during a wildfire. Not only does it improve your home’s chance of surviving a wildfire, but also helps keep firefighters safe while they are protecting your property.
Cal Fire has a Defensible space checklist that you can use to ensure your home is ready. For example, did you know that you should keep tree branches 10 feet away from your chimney, or that you should cut down grass to a maximum height of 4 inches? More defensible space tips are available here.
Hardening your home with fire resistant materials is also important to protect against airborne embers that often ignite structures. Using flame resistant vents, installing dual pane windows, and clearing debris from gutters and patios are all ways you can harden your home. More tips on home hardening are available here.
Wildfire season may be unavoidable in the San Fernando Valley, but you have an opportunity to prepare your home as much as possible to prevent damage. For more tips visit.
EDD WORK SEARCH REQUIREMENT
On Sunday, July 11, EDD reinstated the work search requirement for new and continuing claims. Most claimants must perform one or more job-hunting activities each week to remain eligible for benefits. There are different work search requirements depending on your claim type.
If you are receiving regular unemployment benefits, the requirement applies to finding suitable work that is safe to return to and is comparable to your skills, experience, usual occupation, age, and health. There are different work search requirements that apply whether you are collecting benefits on a regular unemployment claim or extension, or on a Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claim.
For those receiving regular unemployment, you must do one or more of the following activities to retain your eligibility for benefits:
- Setting up an account and uploading your resume on CalJOBS.
- Participating in employment services offered by the America’s Job Center of California.
- Creating a profile on various job-search websites.
- Registering with your union hiring or placement facility and meeting all union requirements related to job placement.
- Watching videos on job-search topics like writing cover letters and interview skills.
- Letting friends, prior employers, or community members know you are looking for work.
- Connecting with people on job networking websites and searching for jobs.
- Participating in networking events related to suitable work.
- Applying for positions with employers who should have openings.
- Applying or taking exams for openings in civil service.
- Responding to “want ads” or job openings.
- Taking courses that help you gain employment and do not prevent you from accepting full-time work, such as federal and state-funded training, computer literacy courses, English as a Second Language (ESL) courses, or courses offering certificates of completion.
If you receive PUA, which supports workers who did not qualify for a regular claim, such as the self-employed, independent contractors or small-business owners, EDD will be send a notice to make sure you are aware of the specific requirements for your claim. Qualifying PUA work search activities are:
- Efforts to get new or additional clients.
- Marketing your business.
- Reviewing current contracts or researching, preparing, or submitting a bid on a new contract.
- Attending networking events.
- Participating in relevant workshops.
- Efforts to expand your business beyond services typically performed.
- Enrolling in training or education courses that will help your business and do not interfere with your ability to return to full-time self-employment.
- If you are an independent contractor who is available for work and performed work for an online platform, you can establish an account on another online platform to search for suitable work.
CALIFORNIA FIRST IN NATION TO PROVIDE FREE SCHOOL MEALS TO ALL STUDENTS
California just became the first state in the nation to provide free school meals to all TK-12th grade public school students. This critical program will dramatically reduce child hunger. Too often, school meals are the only food a child can count on receiving daily. Currently some 60 percent of California’s public school students qualify for cost-free or reduced price meals. All schoolchildren deserve proper nutrition to enable them to learn, be healthy and grow into productive members of society. Imagine trying to do your job without food in your belly. However, many eligible families do not apply because of lack of information, confusing forms, language barriers, fear or shame.
Previously, the legislature enacted a bill I authored to end lunch shaming and unfair meal charge policies. Prior to passage of my Child Hunger Prevention and Fair Treatment Act of 2017, schools would serve “alternative” lunches to children whose meal accounts had unpaid balances, with the cafeteria workers snatching away the child’s regular lunch and substituting something inferior. This practice humiliated innocent children in front of their peers. While the Child Hunger Prevention and Fair Treatment Act was a critical step forward, it did not ensure that every child could receive cost-free school meals, as parents or guardians still had to fill out a school lunch application for their child to qualify.
Now, due to a budget surplus, the State is able to ensure that no child goes hungry on a school day.
Moreover, the program will help boost California agriculture. This is a big win-win.
SUMMER OF LIBRARY FUN AND LEARNING
Both the Los Angeles County and City Public Libraries offer a wealth of summer fun and learning opportunities. The City of Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) offers a wealth of options, including story time, homework help, games, websites and activities, a bio-blitz challenge, and much more, including ASTRO-camp, and a Girls Who Code club held at the North Hollywood library. Check out LAPL’s calendar of STEAM events. You can find more information about all available summer programs on the LAPL Kids website.
The San Fernando Valley is home to DIY Girls, a unique nonprofit organization that trains the next generation of young girls to be STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) leaders. Founded in 2011, by my esteemed colleague Assemblymember Luz Rivas, herself an MIT graduate, DIY Girl gives young women opportunities to learn skills, and foster careers in STEAM.
The mission of the organization is to increase girls’ interest in technology and engineering by providing educational and mentorship experiences. Presently, women represent only 25 percent of the STEAM workforce; while only two percent of those in STEAM careers are Latina.
Since its founding, some 4688 students participated in DIY Girls. The program now serves around a 1000 fifth through 12th grade girls per year across 15 school sites in the Northeast Valley. One hundred percent of DIY Girls alumni enrolled in colleges and universities, with 88 percent pursuing STEAM majors.
DIY Girls offers different programs for different grade levels, including topics such as coding, 3D printing, and inventing prototypes. In 2016, Invent Girls, the DIY team at San Fernando High School, created a portable shelter prototype that collapses into a backpack to address the local homelessness crisis. Two girls from the team presented the idea as a TedTalk at TedxCollegePark.
Normally, DIY Girls holds classes and camps on school campuses. Since the start of the pandemic, DIY Girls conducted the program remotely. This summer, DIY Girls is hosting a virtual 3D printing program, and they plan to resume all in-person programs in the fall.
Letitia Rodriguez, the Executive Director of DIY Girls, said that the organization plans to continue to help young women in the Northeast Valley prepare for rewarding careers in science, arts, and technology. If you know a young woman who would benefit from the DIY Girls program, check out the list of DIY Girls school partners on their website. If that young woman’s school of attendance does not participate, urge the principal to fill out the form at the above link to be waitlisted for inclusion in the free programs.
MORE P-EBT MONEY
Last year, if you had a school-aged child, you may have received a Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) card, loaded with money for groceries. There were two prior rounds of P-EBT funding to offer food support for children who would normally receive school breakfast and lunch. A new round of cards is coming, thanks to additional federal funding.
California recently mailed a flyer to families who qualify. The P-EBT money will not change your other benefits, nor count as taxable income. P-EBT card use does not affect immigration status.
Children 0 - 6 years old who received CalFresh Food benefits between October 2020 and May 2021 will receive a new P-EBT card between July and August. TK - 12th grade students who were eligible to receive free or reduced price school meals for the 2020-2021 school year will receive their new P-EBT cards from September through November. Cards are mailed in alphabetical order based on the first name of the child. If you have more than one child, the cards may not arrive at the same time. There is no application. The cards will be automatically mailed to those who are eligible. For additional information, call the P-EBT helpline at (877) 328-9677 or visit this website.
VALLEY GIRLS IN OUTER SPACE
With all due respect to Moon Unit Zappa, some Valley Girls grew up with more on their minds than shopping at the Sherman Oaks Galleria. At least two Valley Girls had their sights set on reaching the stars - Sally Ride and Kathryn Sullivan. Ride was the first American woman in space and Sullivan the first American woman to walk in space.
It is hardly surprising that the San Fernando Valley produced these trailblazers. The Valley’s association with the aerospace industry is long and storied. According to a 1999 Los Angeles Times article on the Valley’s aviation history, our region’s association with the origins of the aerospace industry began in 1928 - about a quarter of a century after the Wright Brothers’ flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C. The Times further reports that “[b]y the early 1960s, nearly 70% of the Valley’s one million residents were dependent on the defense and aerospace industries.”
“The dawn of the aerospace emerged in the 1950s as firms sprang up throughout the Valley, playing key roles in developing rockets, missiles and man’s journey to the moon,” notes The Times article.
It is thus hardly surprising that kids who grew up in the Valley during the 50s and 60s had an affinity for, or at least passing familiarity with, the “space race.”
Both Ride and Sullivan were born in 1951. Ride was a native of Encino. Sullivan, like so many Valley residents, was a transplant - born in New Jersey. Ride attended Portola Junior High, Birmingham High School and graduated from Westlake School for Girls (now Harvard-Westlake.) Sullivan graduated from Taft High School in Woodland Hills.
In 1978, NASA selected a diverse group of astronauts, including, for the first time, women. Six female astronauts joined this class, including Ride and Sullivan. Valley Girls therefore made up a full one-third of the first group of female astronauts.
Ride became the first American woman in space on June 18, 1983. On October 5, 1984, Ride again blasted off into space. Sullivan joined Ride on that mission. Sullivan went on to complete two additional trips to space. Ride trained for a third mission, but it was scratched due to the tragic explosion of the Challenger. Ride served on the commission that investigated the Challenger disaster, and later served on a similar panel examining the loss of the Columbia Space Shuttle. Ride died in 2012, but her legacy of inspiring children - especially girls -- in STEAM fields continues via Sally Ride Science at U.C. San Diego.
I encourage you to tell young women in your life about these two trailblazers, and encourage your daughters, granddaughters and nieces to reach for the stars.
REMEMBER, WE ARE A TEAM
I appreciate hearing from you. If you have a specific question or concern or story about the Valley to share, please click here to send me an email or call my office at (818) 901-5588. You can also connect with me on Facebook and Twitter.