Business and Labor

HOUSE PASSES REP. SUSAN DAVIS' LEGISLATION TO EXPAND APPRENTICESHIPS, INVEST IN WORKFORCE TRAINING

East County News Service

November 20, 2020 (Washington, D.C.) - The House of Representatives passed Congresswoman Susan Davis’s (CA-53) legislation to reauthorize the National Apprenticeship Act that would create nearly one million new Registered Apprenticeship, youth apprenticeship, and pre-apprenticeship positions over the next five years. The National Apprenticeship Act of 2020 invests nearly $3.5 billion over five years to scale-up apprenticeship opportunities, streamline access to apprenticeships for workers and employers, and expand apprenticeships into new in-demand industry sectors and occupations. Davis’s bill passed on bipartisan vote of 246 to 140.


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TIPS FOR SAFER HOLIDAY SHOPPING AND SUPORTING LOCAL STORES AMID A PANDEMIC

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Creative Commons via Bing

 

November 16, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – How can you support struggling retailers and local nonprofits while also minimizing risk during the 2020 holiday season, with the COVID-19 pandemic raging?

Here are several options to keep the "merry" in your holiday season and/or keep the "jingle" in local stores.


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SOME CHURCHES AND RESTAURANTS FLOUT RULES, OTHERS COMPLY AS PURPLE TIER SHUTDOWNS COMMENCE

 

Story and photos by Jake Rose

Miriam Raftery contributed to this report

 

Photos, left: Parishioners at Skyline Church flock to indoor services, many without masks

November 15, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- Skyline Church in the unincorporated area of La Mesa and Shadow Mountain in El Cajon had full parking lots for Sunday morning services, despite new Purple Tier restrictions now in effect throughout the county.

Purple tier restrictions started at midnight Saturday, due to rising numbers of Covid-19 cases. Purple tier, or Tier 1, is the most restrictive level for California and comes into play when positive tests exceed 8%. Many non-essential business operations must close, places of worship, restaurants and gyms must move all activity outdoors, and retail must cut capacity to 25%.

With businesses already struggling after the initial lockdown followed by an overall slowdown due to the public’s worry about the coronavirus, this second lockdown has some businesses and places of worship around East County flouting the new restrictions.


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COUNTY RELEASE DATA ON COVID-19 EXPOSURE SETTINGS: RESTAURANTS AND RETAIL TOP LIST

By Miriam Raftery

Photo:  shopping online may be safer than in retail and grocery stores, which account for 8.8% of cases countywide since June.  Photo CC by SA

November 13, 2020 (San Diego) – After repeated pressure from media to release more information on which locations pose the highest risks of COVID, San Diego County’s Health and Human Services Department has released new data on potential exposure settings. 


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NEW SHUTDOWNS START SATURDAY AS STATE MOVES COUNTY INTO PURPLE TIER

Chamber of Commerce calls on Congress to pass federal stimulus aid to save jobs and businesses

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Creative Commons image by SA via Bing

November 10, 2020 (San Diego) – The state has moved San Diego County into the most restrictive level, the Purple Tier, after the county’s COVID-19 case rate exceeded 7 cases per 100,000 residents for a full two weeks, soaring as high as 8.9.  To limit spread of the virus, the region must stop indoor operations at restaurants, gyms, churches and movie theaters starting Sat., Nov. 14. Retailers will need to keep customers at 25% of capacity.

“If we don’t continue to take proven, preventive precautions, we won’t be able to get out of the Purple Tier and loosen restrictions,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the County public health officer. “The key to decreasing cases is wearing a mask, maintaining social distance, avoiding gatherings and following other public health recommendations.”  She added, “We understand that people have COVID fatigue, but we have to do what we know works.”

The County will remain in the Purple Tier for at least three weeks. It won’t be able to advance to the Red Tier unless it posts a case rate below 7 cases per 100,000 residents two weeks in a row.

San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jerry Sanders, in a statement on the new shutdown orders, said, “Small businesses, which account for more than 90% of the businesses in San Diego County, have shouldered the bulk of the impact in the struggle to contain the spread of COVID-19. The toll this health crisis is having on small business is overwhelming and every day more small businesses are not able to survive the closures and changing restrictions on their operations."


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COVID CASES SOAR AS COUNTY REMAINS IN PURPLE TIER, RISK OF CLOSURES FOR BUSINESSES AND CHURCHES GROWS

 

To report violations of county health rules call (858) 694-2900 or email SafeReopeningComplianceTeam@sdcounty.ca.gov.

By Miriam Raftery

File photo from 2019: A shutdown could hit hardest in mountain towns such as Julian, where winter weather makes it difficult for businesses to operate outdoors.

November 9, 2020 (San Diego) – Churches, restaurants, gyms, theaters and some other locations will have to end indoor operations in San Diego County if the number of cases doesn’t drop out of the state’s purple tier soon. Retailers would have to reduce capacity.The state could order shutdowns as early as tomorrow.

Winter weather will make it harder for businesses and worship services to be conducted outdoors, particularly in East County’s mountain areas, which had their first snowfall of the season last night.


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UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS EXTENDED SEVEN MORE WEEKS FOR CALIFORNIANS

East County News Service

October 30, 2020 (Sacramento) -- Starting Saturday, October 31, Californians will be eligible for an additional seven weeks of benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. The increase to 46 weeks is available for those who are reaching the end of their initial 39 weeks of benefits that they started as early as February 2. The process for re-computing the PUA claims is expected to take two weeks.  


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RESTAURANT OWNERS SEEK REFUNDS OF STATE AND LOCAL FEES

By Miriam Raftery

October 29, 2020 (San Diego) – Restaurant owners in San Diego and several other counties filed claims Tuesday October 27, asking for refunds of state and local fees assessed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Plaintiffs seek refunds of costs incurred for liquor licenses, health permits and tourism fees at a time when public health orders shut down many businesses or forced them to operate at reduced capacity, while incurring added expenses.

The state has 45 days to respond to the claims, after which a lawsuit could be filed.


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EAST COUNTY MAGAZINE WINS SEVEN AWARDS FROM SAN DIEGO PRESS CLUB

By Miriam Raftery

October 28, 2020 (San Diego) – East County Magazine writers and photographers picked up seven awards in the  San Diego Press Club’s 47th annual  Excellence in Journalism Awards. ECM’s winning entries included coverage of the May 30-31 riot and protest in La Mesa, Cajon Valley Union School District’s educational challenges during COVID-19 and controversial spending on promotional videos, the railway museum’s centennial celebration in Campo, and a column addressing health issues in local communities.

“I’m proud of our team of hard-working journalists, who went above and beyond the call of duty to report during tumultuous times,” says ECM editor Miriam Raftery. “I also want to thank the Facebook Journalism Project grant, which supports local journalism and funded our reporting on most of this year’s winning entries amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”

This year’s Press Club awards program drew more than 1,100 entries, making it one of the largest journalism competitions in the nation. Judges for the Press Club’s entries included members of 15 journalism professional organizations from around the country, including press clubs in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Rochester, Florida, Cleveland, Orange County, Milwaukee, Tulsa and Alaska.

ECM's  award-winners this year are editor Miriam Raftery, photojournalists Paul Kruze, Rebecca Jefferis-Williamson, Henri Migala, and Jake Rose, as well as columnists David Shorey and Paul Levikow.


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SAN DIEGO PRESS CLUB HONORING NEWSPAPER PUBLISHER WHO GAVE FREE ADVERTISING DURING COVID LOCKDOWN

East County News Service

October 26, 2020 (San Diego) – The San Diego Press Club will celebrate its 47th annual Excellence in Journalism awards program on Tuesday evening, Oct. 27. About 500 awards in more than 180 categories and 10 divisions will be announced during an online awards program streamed live over Facebook and Twitter starting at 6 p.m. and originating from the San Diego Automotive Museum in Balboa Park.


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FRAZIER FARMS MARKET BRINGS NEW NATURAL FOODS STORE TO LA MESA

East County News Service

 

Photos, top, by Miriam Raftery 

 

October 26, 2020 (La Mesa) – La Mesa Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting October 20 at the new Frazier Farms Market at the corner of Jackson Drive and Fletcher Parkway.

 

“We are pleased that they had the vision to open their third market in La Mesa. We were thrilled to welcome this family-owned business to our community,” says chamber president Mary England.  La Mesa Mayor Mark Arapostathis joined the celebration along with Frazier Farms owners Norman and Kathe Frazier and their sons Matt, Nick and Alex Frazier.


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SANTEE BUSINESS ASSISTANCE GRANTS ANNOUNCED

East County News Service

 

October 26, 2020 (Santee) -- The Microenterprise Assistance Program or (MAP) is now accepting applications. Grants up to $10,000 are available for local businesses that qualify. 


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REPAIR SMITH, MOBILE MECHANICS COME TO YOU

By Jonathan Goetz

Photo: Kevin from Repair Smith

October 25, 2020 (El Cajon) – During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are staying home and avoiding indoor spaces, where the virus can spread. Waiting for hours in an auto repair shop’s waiting room has become not only inconvenient, but potentially risky.  Thankfully, there is an alternative.  Repair Smith (www.RepairSmith.com) sends mobile mechanics directly to your home. 

This writer was fortunate to win a complimentary repair from the company.  Repair Smith’s mobile mechanics were kind, clean and courteous. I would recommend them to others. Their representative, Keith, kept in contact with me, leading up to the diagnostic.  A couple of days later, Kevin, a mechanic, conducted the repair.

Repair Smith was convenient. My car went through a diagnostic and subsequent repair, all without having to wait in a car repair shop.


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GROSSMONT COLLEGE CAREER EXPO'S VIRTUAL PLATFORM NEXT BEST THING TO BEING THERE OCT. 28

Oct. 28 event using Remo for job seekers to interact with employers

Source:  Grossmont-Cuyamaca College District

October 17, 2020 (El Cajon) - Like so many public events during the current pandemic, Grossmont College’s annual Career Expo won’t be in person this year, but organizers are taking steps to encourage human interactions in a virtual environment.


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RESTAURANTS ADVISED TO COMPLY WITH COMPLEX ‘PARKLET’ DINING RULES

Many restaurant owners don’t understand regulatory layers and risk running afoul of laws

By Marco Polo Cortes, Owner of Marco Polo Permits 

October 15, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- Restaurant owners say that outdoor dining has allowed them to survive the recent COVID-19 closures. Since August 31, restaurants in San Diego County can serve customers indoors – but only at 25% capacity. Sidewalk cafes and “parklets” can allow these struggling businesses to provide outdoor dining, but there are many misconceptions about the rules.


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PAYROLL TAX DEFERRAL TAKES EFFECT SEPTEMBER 1ST

Source: La Mesa Chamber of Commerce

 

October 9, 2020 (La Mesa) -- The IRS issued guidance on President Trump’s payroll tax deferral to defer tax from September 1st until December 31st. This guidance includes the following highlights:

 

  • Employers can defer the withholding, deposit, and payment of certain payroll taxes on wages paid from September 1st through December 31st.
  • Interest penalties, and additions to tax will begin to accrue on unpaid taxes starting May 1st, 2021.


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GOVERNMENT GUARANTEED HOME LOANS FOR EAST COUNTY, SAN DIEGO

By Noel Yap, VA Home Loan Centers

East County San Diego is home to a beautiful landscape that makes up most of the landmass for San Diego County. Most of the east county is rural, with several communities located in backcountry areas known as the Mountain Empire.

The eastern part of San Diego County is perfect for people living in nature and taking part in outside activities like hiking, mountain biking, fishing, camping, all within a beautiful mountainous wilderness. The county is also home to fun Native American Casinos, which offer a thrilling experience for people looking to enjoy some Vegas-style fun.


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AGC-EAST COUNTY HEADQUARTERS AND APPRENTICESHIP TRAINING FACILITY IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION IN LAKESIDE

 

By Rebecca Jefferis Williamson

(Photos by Rebecca Jefferis Williamson)

Sept. 24, 2020 (Lakeside) The AGC East County Headquarters and Apprenticeship Training Facility (AGC) is under construction and slated to open this year. The facility will serve as the headquarters and training center for carpentry, cement masonry, drywall finisher, drywall lather, heavy equipment operator, painter, laborer, and more trades.

For those trying to retrain or hone skills because of COVID-19 economic losses, job seekers may consider enrolling.

Additionally, the state-of-art 43,600 sq. ft facility will provide construction services to the 1,100 plus AGC member firms in the County. 

Training services include continuing construction education, safety services, government affairs, labor relations, business development, and many more.


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PARKWAY PLAZA SELLS AFTER OWNER DEFAULTS ON BONDS: FUTURE OF REGIONAL SHOPPING MALL IS IN LIMBO

By Miriam Raftery

September 15, 2020 (El Cajon) – Starwood Capital Group has lost ownership of Parkway Plaza Regional Shopping Mall in El Cajon and six other U.S. malls, after defaulting on Israeli-held bonds.  A ratings downgrade on the debt earlier this year triggered a clause allowing bondholders to take control of the properties. 

Six parties bid on the portfolio back in May, including Starwood.  The winning bidder, a partnership between Pacific Retail Capital Partners and Golden East Investors, have indicated they “plan to replace department store tenants or repurpose the malls into apartments or offices,” the Wall Street Journal reports, according to The Real Deal.

But El Cajon Councilman Gary Kendrick says getting rid of East County’s largest and only indoor regional shopping mall “would be unacceptable.”  He anticipates the mall’s new owners will face opposition to any such proposal from the City Council.


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TO FIX UP BUSINESS FACADES OR MOVE OUTDOORS IN UNINCORPORATED AREAS, COUNTY HAS A NEW GRANT PROGRAM

East County News Service
 
September 8, 2020 (San Diego) – County Supervisors have established the Business Revitalization and Assistance Grant Program. It will provide business owners in the unincorporated area up to $8,000 to help improve the front exteriors of their buildings or add outdoor workspace. You can apply from October 1 through October 15.

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GOVERNOR SIGNS BILL TO EXEMPT MANY INDEPENDENT WORKERS FROM AB 5

Update September 5, 2020 : Governor Gavin Newsom has signed this bill into law. It takes effect immediately as an emergency measure.
 
By Miriam Raftery
 
September 3, 2020 (Sacramento) – A bill to exempt many occupations from AB 5, California’s controversial new employment law, and allow those exempted to work as independent contractors instead of employees, has passed the Legislature overwhelmingly. Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to sign the measure, AB 2257, into law. If signed, it would take effect immediately as an urgency measure. View full text of AB 2257.
 
The trouble began in 2018 when the state Supreme Court’s decision in the Dynamex case imposed a strict new test of employment status in California’s burgeoning gig economy.  AB 5, authored by Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), sought to codify the court ruling but went farther, requiring that a broad range of freelancers and independent contractors be treated as employees eligible for benefits ranging from unemployment to medical care.
 
AB 5 triggered a backlash of criticism from many freelancers whose income and flexibility were severely impacted, including musicians, writers, translators and many others walloped first by AB 5, and then by the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown.

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LA MESA VILLAGE ASSOCIATION TO IMPLEMENT DECORATIVE FLAGPOLE BANNERS IN DOWNTOWN LA MESA VILLAGE

Source: La Mesa Village Association
 
September 2, 2020 (La Mesa) – The La Mesa Village Association (LMVA) has announced that they are coordinating the installation of lamp post banners along La Mesa Blvd. between Acacia and 4th Street in the heart of downtown La Mesa to further promote the City of La Mesa, local downtown businesses and events as well as bring additional beautification to the Village.

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CONSTRUCTION TO START SOON ON NEW RESIDENTIAL AND RETAIL IN DOWNTOWN EL CAJON

By Miriam Raftery
 
August 31, 2020 (El Cajon) – Construction is set to begin in September on a new housing and retail building at 101 Main Street on the corner of Main and Magnolia in downtown El Cajon.  

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BACK TO BUSINESS: SALONS, SHOPPING MALLS, THEATERS, GYMS, RESTAURANTS, CHURCHES AND MORE CAN REOPEN MONDAY, WITH SOME LIMITATIONS

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photo:  Roz Oserin, owner of Prete-a-Porter Salon and Spa, says cutting hair outdoors has been "an adventure" but she looks forward to resuming indoor services starting Monday.

August 29, 2020 (San Diego) –  Yesterday, the state announced new rules to allow many businesses and houses of worship to reopen in counties including San Diego, with streamlined new criteria.

Starting Monday, August 31, the new state tiered system allows the following businesses in our region to reopen, with the following requirements:


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EL CAJON AWARDS NEARLY $2.5 MILLION TO HELP SMALL BUSINESSSES IMPACTED BY PANDEMIC

East County News Service
 
Photo: Hacienda Casa Blana restaurant is among the grant recipients. The restaurant moved outdoors after several weeks of closure, then had canopies stolen. 
 
August 27, 2020 (El Cajon) -- The City of El Cajon announced Tuesday that it has awarded nearly $2.5 million in grants to 134 small businesses in the city. The Business Grant Program—which was made possible through Federal CARES funds released by the County and State—was open to both non-essential and essential businesses (as defined by the State of California), as well as restaurants. 
 
Small business owners were eligible for various award amounts with maximums ranging from $10,000 for restaurants, $15,000 for essential businesses, and up to $30,000 for non-essential businesses, which were forced to fully close when the stay-at-home orders took effect in March. 
 
“The impact of this grant will provide an economic stimulus to support local small businesses which have suffered the greatest due to the pandemic,” said City Manager Graham Mitchell. 
 
A business grant committee made up of business and community leaders in the City assisted in selecting the recipients, which were all required to meet minimum qualifications set forth by the City Council. 

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FEMA ANNOUNCES LOST WAGES GRANT FOR CALIFORNIANS IMPACTED BY COVID-19 – AT HALF THE RATE AS EARLIER UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF

By Miriam Raftery

August 21, 2020 (Washington D.C.) – Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Pete Gaynor has approved California for a FEMA grant under the Lost Wages Assistance program. FEMA’s grant funding will allow California to provide an extra $300 per week -- on top of its regular unemployment benefit -- to those unemployed due to COVID-19.  

 

But that’s only half the amount that workers were receiving before federal supplemental unemployment benefits expired July 31. 


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LA MESA APPROVES CARES AID FOR RENTERS AND BUSINESSES, HELP FOR HOMELESS AND A REPORT ON CIVIL UNREST RESPONSE

By Briana Gomez

File photo:  Mike and Linda McWilliams have laid off two-thirds of the staff at their San Pasqual Winery tasting room in the La Mesa Village, according to testimony to the City Council on August 11.

August 20, 2020 (La Mesa) - The La Mesa City Council met on August 11 via teleconference,  on hour after a trying virtual town hall the previous Thursday where notification of  Police Chief Walt Vasquez’s resignation was announced publicly.  The Council approved CARES Act funding to help local renters and businesses. Other highlights included approval to hire a consultant to prepare a report on the May 30-31 protest and riot, as well as moving forward on action to help the homeless.


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AMAZON ANNOUNCES PLANS FOR 200 NEW JOBS IN SAN DIEGO TECH EXPANSION

By Chris Jennewein, Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego Online News Association

Photo: Entrance to Amazon’s San Diego tech hub in University City. Courtesy Amazon

August 19, 2020 (San Diego) -- Amazon announced Tuesday it will create 200 new jobs in San Diego as part of a plan to expand technology hubs in six major cities.


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CALIFORNIA EXPECTED TO REMOVE SAN DIEGO COUNTY FROM COVID WATCH LIST TODAY

  • Aug. 17: 89.8
  • Aug. 16: 91.8
  • Aug. 15: 94.7

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DEFAULTED BILLS MAILED TO OVER 28K PROPERTY TAXPAYERS, BUT PENALTIES MAY BE WAIVED FOR THOSE IMPACTED BY COVID-19

Source: San Diego County Treasurer-Tax Collector

August 17, 2020 (San Diego) -- San Diego County Treasurer-Tax Collector Dan McAllister announced on Aug. 11 that his office is offering penalty relief for small business owners and homeowners who are among those receiving more than 28,000 defaulted bills. 

“We know many of the late bills are due to COVID-19, and we want our taxpayers to know there could be relief,” said McAllister. “They may qualify to have their penalties waived if they file for a COVID-19 cancellation request. Our customers must provide documentation as evidence to show how the pandemic impacted their ability to pay their second installment by April 10.”


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