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Oakland Black Chamber of Commerce Center Stage At American Rescue Plan Meeting with Harris, Yellen

One of four speakers, Cathy Adams, OAACC’s president and CEO, said of the chamber’s virtual seat at the table, “We addressed the urgency of keeping our local businesses afloat, further, restoring them to a level of sufficiency.  The latter is critical to help our businesses build back better, here in the Bay Area.”

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Vice Pres. Kamala Harris and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen

The Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce (OAACC), www.oaacc.org, joined more than 140 Black chamber presidents from across the nation, in a virtual conversation on February 5, with U.S. Vice Pres. Kamala Harris and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, to discuss the American Rescue Plan.

Moderated by Ron Busby, president and CEO of U.S. Black Chambers, INC., the nearly hour-long exchange, placed emphasis squarely on restoring the U.S. economy to full capacity, particularly Black-owned businesses, a sector hardest hit during the COVID19 health pandemic.

One of four speakers, Cathy Adams, OAACC’s president and CEO, said of the chamber’s virtual seat at the table, “We addressed the urgency of keeping our local businesses afloat, further, restoring them to a level of sufficiency.  The latter is critical to help our businesses build back better, here in the Bay Area.”

Adams also punctuated a critical area affecting the African-American community more broadly, stating, “Vice President Harris encouraged all chamber leaders to reach out to our respective communities to get people vaccinated.”

Locally, OAACC created an economic stimulus fund last summer to provide needed financial support for small Black-owned businesses that did not receive federal funding or PPP monies.  The $1.1 million fund, raised in 90 days from area resources, corporate partners and individual contributors allowed OAACC to issue more than 200 grants to local businesses in amounts ranging from  $2,500 to $10,000.  “These grants were a lifeline for our businesses; many are still struggling during this very scary time,” Adams said.

The expectation is that the Biden administration will fulfill promises made under the “Build Back Better” economic agenda.

“Connecting with Vice President Harris and Secretary Yellen is a great step forward,” Adams said. “We will continue to support their efforts and participate.”

Ces Butner, OAACC’s board chairman – along with others included on the virtual discussion – expressed support of Biden’s vision for the American Rescue Plan.

A link to the virtual meeting is here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7SXG3HUhhI&feature=youtu.be

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Business

Oakland City Council Considers Proposal to Limit City’s Highest Annual Rent Hike in History

In Oakland, landlords can raise rents up to 100% of the inflation rate. So, a 6.7% increase in inflation this year means that landlords can raise rents the same percentage. For an apartment rented for $2,000 a month, the 6.7% rent increase would mean that a tenant’s rent would increase more than $100 to $2,134 a month.

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District 3 Councilmember Carroll Fife introduced a bill to bring Oakland’s calculator more in line with other cities. The law is scheduled for a vote on May 31. If it passes before the current allowable rent hike goes into effect on July 1, then the lower allowable increase will take effect instead.

By Brandon Patterson

Last month, Oakland housing regulators announced that starting in July, landlords would be permitted to raise rents by up to 6.7% — the highest annual increase in the city’s history. The announcement prompted an outcry from renters at City Council meetings and hearings in recent weeks – and calls to local councilmembers.

Now, City Council is considering a proposal to limit the rent increase and give renters, many of whom are already struggling, some needed relief.

In many Bay Area cities, where housing has been an issue for decades, the amount landlords are allowed to raise rents every year is tied to inflation. This stabilizes rents by limiting increases, ensuring more security for renters’ households.

In Oakland, landlords can raise rents up to 100% of the inflation rate. So, a 6.7% increase in inflation this year means that landlords can raise rents the same percentage. For an apartment rented for $2,000 a month, the 6.7% rent increase would mean that a tenant’s rent would increase more than $100 to $2,134 a month.

This deviates from other cities like Berkeley and San Francisco, however, where the annual allowable rent increase is capped at 65% and 60% of inflation, respectively, according to Oaklandside. That means that for the same $2,000 apartment, rents would increase to about $2,087 in Berkeley or $2084 in San Francisco — about $50 less.

Housing justice and tenants’ rights groups have long criticized how differently Oakland calculates its rent hikes from other cities, and earlier this month, District 3 Councilmember Carroll Fife introduced a bill to bring Oakland’s calculator more in line with other cities. The bill would reduce the allowable annual rent increase to just 60% of inflation. It would also cap the allowable rent increase to 3% of the current rent, even if the inflation rate would allow for a higher one.

“I do want to create some security for renters,” Fife told NBC Bay Area in a recent interview. “Oakland is a majority renter city: Over 60% of the residents of the city of Oakland are renters, and it doesn’t make sense to put them in this type of jeopardy.”

“It’s not like we’re coming out of COVID—it’s all around us,” Mark Dias, co-chair of the Oakland Tenants Union, told Oaklandside. “If tenants weren’t able to financially recover from that period of time, they’re also going to be hit with an increase that is legal,” adding that he was “astonished” by the pending rent hike this year.

But some property owners are pushing back, arguing that increases in the cost of operating housing necessitates the higher rent hike. “There has also been an extraordinary increase in everything: water, gas, electric, sewer, repair services, equipment, appliances, plumbing,” Derek Barnes, CEO of the East Bay Rental Housing Association, told NBC Bay Area. “You also have a housing stock that’s older, that really needs a lot of maintenance.”

The law is scheduled for a vote on May 31. If it passes before the current allowable rent hike goes into effect on July 1, then the lower allowable increase will take effect instead.

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Bay Area

Bay Area Health Officers Urge Public to Take Precautions as COVID-19 Levels Rise

The Bay Area now has California’s highest COVID-19 infection rates, fueled by highly contagious Omicron subvariants. Bay Area counties are seeing increases in reported cases, levels of virus in wastewater, and hospitalizations. Actual case rates are higher than those reported because of widespread use of home tests.

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Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County Public Health Officer.
Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County Public Health Officer.

Courtesy of Marin County

Twelve Bay Area health officers are emphasizing the importance of taking safety precautions, including continued masking indoors, as the region experiences a new swell of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

The Bay Area now has California’s highest COVID-19 infection rates, fueled by highly contagious Omicron subvariants. Bay Area counties are seeing increases in reported cases, levels of virus in wastewater, and hospitalizations. Actual case rates are higher than those reported because of widespread use of home tests.

The health officers reiterate their continued, strong support for people to mask up indoors, keep tests handy, and ensure they are up to date on vaccinations by getting boosters when eligible.

“As cases rise around us, it’s important to understand that more people around you are likely infected or have been exposed,” said Marin County Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis. “Masks are an easy tool you can use to protect yourself and lower your risk of infection.”

The grim milestone of 1 million deaths from COVID-19 in the United States, reached earlier this week, underscores the need for continued vigilance against the virus.

Although not required, masking is strongly recommended by the California Department of Public Health for most public indoor settings, and health officials say wearing higher-quality masks (N95/KN95 or snug-fitting surgical masks) indoors is a wise choice. Vaccines remain the best protection against severe disease and death from COVID-19.

Health officials say people should also stay home and get tested right away if they feel sick. Officials also encourage getting tested after potential exposure and limiting large gatherings to well ventilated spaces or outdoors. For those more likely to get very sick from COVID-19 infection, medications are available that can reduce chances of severe illness and death. Talk with a health care provider right away if a test comes back positive.

This statement has been endorsed by health officers from the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Benito, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Sonoma as well as the City of Berkeley.

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Bay Area

COVID-19 Surge in Marin Fueled By BA.2 Variant

The rise in COVID-19 cases has not been accompanied by a similar rise in hospitalizations for severe illness. Today there are no patients in intensive care for COVID-19 in any Marin hospital, and no deaths have been reported in over one month. Since the start of the pandemic each major variant has been more contagious than the last. At the same time, high vaccination rates, and now access to treatments, have significantly reduced the impact on hospitalizations and deaths.

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Public Health focus shifting toward most vulnerable residents

Courtesy of Marin County

Marin County is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the highly contagious Omicron BA.2 variant. Since the first week of April, when BA.2 became the dominant strain in Marin, case rates have tripled. As with prior surges, this has led to outbreaks in schools, long term care facilities and correctional institutions. Virus levels in wastewater confirm COVID-19 activity is increasing across the county.

Marin County Public Health attributes the current surge to two main factors — the characteristics of the newly emerging Omicron variants and the behavior of the community.

“Each variant is different,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County Public Health Officer. “We’re learning in real time about this new strain, and what it does and doesn’t do. It’s very good at infecting people, including those who are vaccinated. But it’s not sending vaccinated people to the hospital.”

The rise in COVID-19 cases has not been accompanied by a similar rise in hospitalizations for severe illness. Today there are no patients in intensive care for COVID-19 in any Marin hospital, and no deaths have been reported in over one month. Since the start of the pandemic each major variant has been more contagious than the last. At the same time, high vaccination rates, and now access to treatments, have significantly reduced the impact on hospitalizations and deaths. Vaccination reduces risk of death by 90%, and treatment reduces risk an additional 90%. For the first time since the pandemic began, a goal of zero COVID deaths may be within reach.

People who were infected in the past and who are up to date with vaccination have more powerful immunity, acquired from infection and vaccine, and local data shows they are even better protected. This may explain why communities and regions with historically lower infection rates, such as the Bay Area, are seeing more cases now.

Marin County Public Health is committed to a balanced response to this surge and is focused on protecting our most vulnerable residents against severe illness and death. Public Health recommends that those over age 60 who also have a medical condition that increases risk, residents of any age who are immunocompromised, and unvaccinated residents take the following precautions:

  • Prevent exposure to the virus: Consider avoiding non-essential indoor gatherings while transmission levels in the community remain high. If attending an indoor gathering, or in any indoor public setting, wear a well fitted KN-95 or N-95 mask.
  • Get up to date with your vaccines: Being fully up to date with vaccinations is the most important protection against serious illness.
  • Seek treatment if needed: Test for COVID if symptomatic (including allergy-like symptoms). If positive, promptly contact your healthcare provider to determine if you would benefit from COVID-19 treatment. Prescriptions for COVID treatments can be filled at most pharmacies across Marin.

The Omicron BA.2 variant is estimated to be at least 25% more infectious than the BA.1 strain and is better able to evade immune defenses against infection. Still, vaccinated individuals remain highly protected against serious illness. Among Marin County residents’ data show that vaccination reduces risk of hospitalization by 94%.

“The virus is changing, and our approach needs to shift as well,” said Dr. Willis. “It’s increasingly likely most of us will have a date with COVID, if we haven’t yet. The key is to be vaccinated and boosted before that happens, so we don’t end up seriously ill. Plus, we need to rally to prevent infections among the most vulnerable, and make sure they have access to treatment.”

Prior to attending any gathering, Marin County Public Health recommends everyone seek same day rapid antigen testing. People who test positive should stay at home and isolate, which further decreases the risk of asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic transmission to vulnerable residents.

Learn more about current COVID-19 activity in Marin County at Coronavirus.marinhhs.org

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