California halts evictions for 2 months amid outbreak

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday banned all evictions of renters for the next two months, his latest effort to offer a lifeline to the many millions in the state harmed by the economic fallout from the spreading coronavirus.

Newsom signed an executive order that prohibits landlords, law enforcement and the courts from enforcing eviction notices until May 31. The order takes effect for rents due on April 1. And it only applies to tenants who are not already behind on their payments.

Long Beach passed a similar measure on Tuesday, banning evictions from March 4 to May 31 and allowing renters to delay paying rent for those months until November. Renters must provide some documentation that their financial situation has been impacted by the pandemic.

To be eligible for the state measure, renters must notify their landlords in writing up to seven days after rent is due. Tenants must be able to document why they cannot pay, which include termination notices, payroll checks, medical bills or “signed letters or statements form an employer or supervisor explaining the tenant’s changed financial circumstances.”

The order came two days after five of the nation’s largest banks plus hundreds of credit unions and state-chartered banks agreed to defer mortgage payments for people affected by the virus. Four of those banks — Wells Fargo, US Bank, Citi and JP Morgan Chase — agreed to defer payments for the next three months.

Bank of America agreed to defer payments monthly until the crisis subsides.

About a third of the nation’s record 3.3 million unemployment claims are in California, where thousands of businesses have been forced to close following Newsom’s order for people to stay at home unless their jobs are deemed essential or they are buying food, medicine, visiting a doctor or exercising.

The state has hired retired state workers and transferred other employees to help process an avalanche of over 1 million unemployment claims amid a surge of job losses.

Confirmed coronavirus cases in California reached more than 4,200 on Friday and at least 85 deaths, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Actual figures on confirmed cases are much higher but tens of thousands of tests have yet to be processed.

State officials have been preparing for a potential surge in hospitalizations as the virus continues to spread. Friday, a military hospital ship arrived in Los Angeles that will provide 1,000 beds for non-coronavirus patients to relieve over-burdened hospitals.

The US Naval Ship Mercy pulled into port one day after Los Angeles saw a 50% jump in coronavirus cases. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Newsom visited the Mercy, which could begin receiving patients over the weekend.

“The proposal we’re recommending is that we do a slow ramp-up” with patients, Capt. John Rotruck said. “We would start slowly with a number like five for the first day, then doubling that and doubling again. A number like that would be a reasonable start.”

On Friday, Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn announced the county would temporarily close all beaches to the public. The order includes bike trails along the beaches, parking lots and rest rooms. San Diego County is among other places whee similar orders are in place.

“The crowds we saw at our beaches last weekend were unacceptable,” Hahn said. “We cannot risk another sunny weekend with crowds at the beach spreading this virus.”

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