CALIFORNIA – Governor Gavin Newsom announced Friday a series of initiatives to support the most vulnerable who are isolated at home. The state is launching a first-in-the-nation meal delivery program, a partnership to make wellness check-in calls, and the expansion of Friendship Line California to help combat social isolation.
Taxpayers will pay restaurants to make meals for millions of California’s seniors during the coronavirus pandemic, an initiative that could pump billions of dollars into a devastated industry while generating sales tax collections for cash-strapped local governments, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday.
California has about 5.7 million people 65 and older and it’s not known precisely how many will be eligible, though Newsom said he expects it will be millions. To qualify, seniors must earn below 600% of the federal poverty level, which is $74,940 for an individual and $154,500 for a family of four. They also must have either been exposed to the virus, have a high risk for exposure or a compromised immune system.
A qualifying senior will get up to $66 per day for three meals at local restaurants that meet certain criteria. If 2 million people sign up and get all three meals a day, the price tag would be about $4 billion per month.
The federal government will pay for 75% of the cost. Local governments will pay for the rest. But the state government will cover 75% of the cost to local governments.
“This will allow for the ability for restaurants to start rehiring people or keep people currently employed,” Newsom said. “We will provide an unlimited number of meals.”
Local governments will choose which restaurants will make the food and get the money, decisions Newsom indicated would be based partly on nutrition. The program will favor “independent restaurants” and produce from local farms.
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Newsom said this will also help provide jobs to local businesses and aid those in need. The program will be administered by local authorities and will serve older Californians who are ineligible for other nutrition programs.
The "Social Bridging Project" will mobilize more than 1,000 callers to proactively reach out to older Californians who are isolating at home. It will combat social isolation through direct, one-on-one communication with older adults, many living alone, and isolated.
Listos California is partnering with the California Department of Aging, United Airlines, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), and Sacramento State University to make calls to older Californians.
Lastly, Newsom announced the Friendship Line California is expanding to support lonely and isolated older Californians.
Callers will check on the individual’s well-being, connect them to resources, and connect with them on a personal level. The line is toll-free and available to provide emotional support to older Californians facing loneliness, isolation, and anxiety. Contact the Friendship Line California at 1-888-670-1360.
People with additional questions may also call the state's COVID-19 line at 833-422-4255 (833-4CA-4ALL).
The governor has provided more information on these initiatives, Click Here for details.