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Your Taxes, Cash Flow and COVID-19 Crisis: an Interview With BOE Chair Malia Cohen

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A little over one year ago, members of the California Board of Equalization (BOE) unanimously selected Malia M. Cohen, former president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, to chair the 141-year-old state agency.

Cohen made history when she became the first African-American woman elected to the Board of Equalization in November of 2018.  She is also the first Black woman to serve as chair of the Board of Equalization, the agency responsible for administering California’s $70 billion property tax system.

In her role, Cohen represents nearly 10 million constituents residing in 23 counties in Northern and Central California, extending from Del Norte County in the north to Santa Barbara County in the south.

She’s the youngest constitutional officer serving in California.

Our interview with Cohen is one of several we will have with state officials from all backgrounds. What they share with us will help keep African Americans in California up to speed with important news coming out of government that has direct impact on our lives, money, health and civil rights.

Our goal is to help close the information gap that exists between our community and other groups throughout our state.

California Black Media (CBM):  The coronavirus pandemic is clearly impacting the economy.  Just how bad is it?

Malia Cohen (MC):  It’s bad. The pandemic has turned all of our lives upside down.  Just this week, the governor announced that over 1.6 million Californians have filed for unemployment because of the pandemic.  Many more will file in the weeks to come.  State and local governments will lose revenue needed to maintain vital services.  It is a true financial crisis.

CBM:  How are our elected leaders responding to this financial crisis?

MC: Our African-American elected leaders in California’s Congressional delegation — Sen. Kamala Harris and congresswomen Maxine Waters, Barbara Lee, and Karen Bass — have been working overtime to provide financial assistance.  W are fortunate to have our own Congresswoman Maxine Waters serving as chair of the House Financial Services Committee and Congresswoman Karen Bass serving as the chair of the Congressional Legislative Black Caucus.  In the coming days, I look forward to working with these remarkable African American leaders to provide direct communication about financial relief for our community.  One way will be through telephone town halls and community press communications just like this.

CBM: What can be done to assist persons who are suffering financially as a result of the pandemic?

MC: Action has already been taken to delay the date for filing and payment of income taxes to the IRS and the California Franchise Tax Board.  The traditional tax day deadline of April 15 has been extended to July 15.  Individual taxpayers seeking information about their own filing requirements can call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 and businesses can call 1-800-829-4933.  For the California Franchise Tax Board, taxpayers can call 1-800-852-5711.

CBM: What help is coming for a person who just needs money to live on?

MC: Congress also approved payments of up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for married couples, and $500 for each qualifying child.  These funds will be sent to everyone who filed federal income taxes for either 2018 or 2019, and has an income under $75,000 for individuals and up to $150,000 for married couples.  These checks will be reduced by $5 for every $100 above the $75,000 and $150,000 thresholds.  Single filers with incomes over $99,000 and $198,000 for couples are not eligible.

CBM: How are the checks going to be distributed?

MC: They are going to be sent out via direct deposit to bank accounts.

CBM: What if the IRS does not have my direct deposit information, or if I have moved?

MC: According the IRS website, “In the coming weeks, Treasury plans to develop a web-based portal for individuals to provide their banking information to the IRS online, so that individuals can receive payments immediately as opposed to checks in the mail.”

CBM: What about folks who usually don’t file tax returns, and can they get a check?

MC: According to the IRS, the website irs.gov/coronavirus is going to publish information about how to file for these coronavirus economic impact checks even if you have not filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019.

CBM: Do you have any other suggestions for persons who need relief?

MC: Yes.  Please remember to file for the California Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Young Child Tax Credit if you or your family are eligible.  Here’s how to file.  If you have taxable earned income under $30,000, you can file and receive up to $240 if you have no children.  If you have one child, the credit could be as high as $1,605.  If you have three or more children, the credit rises to $2,982.  In California, a taxpayer files Franchise Tax Board Form 3514 California Earned Income Tax Credit along with your state income tax return.  To get a copy of Form 3514, go to the Franchise Tax Board website, ftb.ca.gov.  Click on “Forms” in the top right of the website. Then, under “Get forms, instructions, and publications” click “Online.”  On the next page, where it says “Form Number and/or Keywords” type in 3514.  That will take you to the form for filing the California Earned Income Tax Credit.

Also, you may qualify for the federal IRS Earned Income Tax Credit. To qualify, you must file an income tax return with the IRS (Form 1040), and also be within income guidelines.   If you have children, you attached  “Schedule EIC” to your Form 1040.  To get more information, go to the IRS website, irs.gov, click on “Credits and Deductions” at the top of the page. Then click on “Earned Income Credit (EITC).”

CBM: What about financial assistance for small businesses?

MC: Congress just passed a $349 billion paycheck protection program, which provides loans to small businesses to help them keep their workers on payroll.  This is one way to help businesses so that they do not have to lay off their employees.  Every eligible small business should consider taking advantage of this program.

CBM: Where can people get information about this program?

MC: Go to the website treasury.gov/cares and click on “Assistance for Small Business.”

CBM: What if I run a small business and can’t get together my California Sales Tax filing because of the governor’s stay-at-home order?

MC:  Businesses affected by the coronavirus can request relief of interest or penalties or request an extension for filing a return by going to the California Department of Tax and Fee’s website: CDTFA.ca.gov.  Go to the “Alert!” banner at the top of the page, and click on “Learn more” after the sentence, “CDTFA is able to make it easier for taxpayers to request relief.”  Or, taxpayers can call: 1-800-400-7115.

CBM: Will taxpayers still have to pay their property taxes on April 10th?

MC: The April 10th deadline is fixed in statute.  Only San Francisco has extended the deadline to May 4 due to the shelter-in-place order in effect in San Francisco.  Local county tax collectors can relieve penalties and interests if they determine that failure to make timely payment is due to reasonable cause and circumstances beyond the taxpayer’s control. Taxpayers would have to file for relief of penalties and interest with their county tax collector. I certainly hope that tax collectors are willing to grant relief to all who are impacted by the coronavirus and the stay-at-home orders.

CBM: How do we contact you if we need help?

MC: We are always eager to help. Call and leave me a message at 415-557-3000 or email me at MaliaCohen@boe.ca.gov and we will get back to you as soon as we can.  My website at www.boe.ca.gov/Cohen has many helpful resources or you can follow me on Facebook or sign up for my newsletter to receive updates.

Note: Complex tax laws and concepts were discussed in this interview. It may not address every situation and is not considered written advice. Changes in law or regulations may have occurred since the time this news release was written. If there is a conflict between the text of this news release and the law, decisions will be based upon the law and not this news release.

California Black Media Staff

California Black Media Staff

Activism

Who are the Alameda County District 4 Supervisor Candidates’ Top Campaign Contributors?

Below, we’ve listed each candidate’s 10 highest campaign contributors. For Miley, two of his top campaign donors also bought their own advertisements to support him and/or oppose Esteen through independent expenditures. Such expenditures, though separate from campaign donations, are also public record, and we listed them. Additionally, the National Organization of Realtors has spent about $70,500 on their own independent expenditures to support Miley.

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Jennifer Esteen. (Campaign photo) and Supervisor Nate Miley. (Official photo).
Jennifer Esteen. (Campaign photo) and Supervisor Nate Miley. (Official photo).

By Zack Haber

Nate Miley, who has served on Alameda County’s Board of Supervisors since 2000, is running for reelection to the District 4 supervisor seat.

Jennifer Esteen, a nurse and activist, is seeking to unseat him and become one of the five members of the powerful board that sets the county’s budget, governs its unincorporated areas, and oversees the sheriff, Alameda Health System, and mental health system.

District 4 includes most of East Oakland’s hills and flatlands beyond Fruitvale, part of Pleasanton and unincorporated areas south of San Leandro like Ashland and Castro Valley.

Voting is open and will remain open until March 5.

In California, campaign donations of $100 or more are public record. The records show that Miley has received about $550,000 in total campaign donations since he won the previous District 4 election in March 2020. Esteen has raised about $255,000 in total campaign donations since she started collecting them last July. All figures are accurate through Feb. 20.

While Miley has raised more money, Esteen has received donations from more sources. Miley received donations of $100 or more from 439 different sources. Esteen received such donations from 507 different sources.

Below, we’ve listed each candidate’s 10 highest campaign contributors. For Miley, two of his top campaign donors also bought their own advertisements to support him and/or oppose Esteen through independent expenditures. Such expenditures, though separate from campaign donations, are also public record, and we listed them. Additionally, the National Organization of Realtors has spent about $70,500 on their own independent expenditures to support Miley.

Nate Miley’s top campaign contributors:

The California Apartment Association, a trade group representing landlords and investors in California’s rental housing business, has spent about $129,500 supporting Miley’s election bid through about $59,500 in ads against Esteen$55,000 in ads supporting Miley, and $15,000 in campaign donations.

The independent expenditure committee Preserve Agriculture in Alameda County has spent about $46,025 supporting Miley through about $27,200 in their own ads, and $18,825 in donations to his campaign. Preserve Agriculture has supported reelection efforts for former Alameda County DA Nancy O’Malley, and Sheriff Greg Ahern, a republican. It’s received funding from ChevronPG&E, and a the California Apartment Association.

Organizations associated with the Laborers’ International Union of North America, or LiUNA, have donated about $35,000 in total. Construction and General Laborers Local 304, a local chapter of the union representing which represents over 4,000 workers, donated $20,000.

Laborers Pacific Southwest Regional Organizing Coalition, which represents 70,000 LiUNA members in Arizona, California, Hawaii and New Mexico, donated $15,000.

William ‘Bill’ Crotinger and the East Oakland-based company Argent Materials have donated $26,000. Crotinger is the president and founder of Argent, a concrete and asphalt recycling yard. Argent’s website says it is an eco-friendly company that diverts materials from landfills. In 2018, Argent paid the EPA $27,000 under a settlement for committing Clean Water Act violations.

Michael Morgan of Hayward, owner of We Are Hemp, a marijuana dispensary in Ashland, has donated $21,500.

Alameda County District 1 Supervisor David Haubert has donated $21,250 from his 2024 reelection campaign. He’s running unopposed for the District 1 seat.

SEIU 1021which represents over 60,000 workers in local governments, non-profit agencies, healthcare programs, and schools in Northern California, has donated $20,000.

UA Local 342, which represents around 4,000 pipe trades industry workers in Contra Costa and Alameda counties, donated $20,000.

The union representing the county’s deputy sheriffs, Deputy Sheriff’s Association of Alameda County, has donated $17,000.

Becton Healthcare Resources and its managers have donated $14,625. Becton’s mission statement says it provides “behavioral health management services to organizations and groups that serve the serious and persistent mentally ill population.”

Jennifer Esteen’s top campaign contributors:

Mary Quinn Delaney of Piedmont, founder of Akonadi Foundation, has donated $20,000. Akonadi Foundation gives grants to nonprofit organizations, especially focusing on racial justice organizing,

Bridget Galli of Castro Valley has donated $7,000. Galli is a yoga instructor and a co-owner of Castro Valley Yoga.

Rachel Gelman of Oakland has donated $5,000. Gelman is an activist who has vowed to redistribute her inherited wealth to working class, Indigenous and Black communities.

California Worker Families Party has donated $5,000. The organization’s website describes itself as a “grassroots party for the multiracial working class.”

David Stern of Albany has donated $5,000. Stern is a retired UC Berkeley Professor of Education.

Oakland Rising Committee—a collaborative of racial, economic, and environmental justice organizations—has donated about $3,050.

Fredeke Von Bothmer-Goodyear, an unemployed resident of San Francisco, has donated $2,600.

Robert Britton of Castro Valley has donated $2,500. Britton is retired and worked in the labor movement for decades.

Progressive Era PAC has donated about $2,400. Its mission statement says it “exists to elect governing majorities of leaders in California committed to building a progressive era for people of color.”

East Bay Stonewall Democrats Club has donated $2,250. The club was founded in 1982 to give voice to the East Bay LGBTQIA+ communities.

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Berkeley

UC Berkeley Creates Its First Black History Tour

The self-guided Black history tour at UC Berkeley begins at Memorial Stadium, where student Walter Gordon was a star of the football team more than 100 years ago. It then weaves through campus, making stops at 13 more locations, each highlighting an important person or landmark related to Black history.

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Walter Gordon, who is discussed during the first stop of the Black history tour at Memorial Stadium, was one of the first two Black Americans named to the College All-American Football Team in 1918. He went on to become the first Black student to graduate from Berkeley Law and to work as a police officer for the city of Berkeley, among many other accomplishments. Illustration by Heaven Jones.
Walter Gordon, who is discussed during the first stop of the Black history tour at Memorial Stadium, was one of the first two Black Americans named to the College All-American Football Team in 1918. He went on to become the first Black student to graduate from Berkeley Law and to work as a police officer for the city of Berkeley, among many other accomplishments. Illustration by Heaven Jones.

By UC Berkeley News

The self-guided Black history tour at UC Berkeley begins at Memorial Stadium, where student Walter Gordon was a star of the football team more than 100 years ago. It then weaves through campus, making stops at 13 more locations, each highlighting an important person or landmark related to Black history.

There’s Ida Louise Jackson Graduate House, named in honor of the first African American woman to teach in Oakland public schools. Next is Barbara Christian Hall, named for the first Black woman to be granted tenure at Berkeley. Other stops include Wheeler Hall and Sproul Plaza, where Black visionaries, like James Baldwin and Martin Luther King Jr., gave famous speeches.

“Just knowing this history, walking around campus and knowing it, you really feel like you belong,” said student Daniella Lake, who’s on the Black Lives at Cal team that created the tour. “Black people have been here for the past 100 years, and if they were doing all these amazing things then, I can surely do it now.”

You can find the self-guided Black history tour on Black Lives at Cal’s website. And soon, on the site, you’ll also be able to sign up for upcoming in-person walking tours.

Read a portion of the transcript of Berkeley Voices episode, “Take the first Black history tour at UC Berkeley”

Anne Brice: This is Berkeley Voices. I’m Anne Brice.

The self-guided Black history tour at UC Berkeley begins at Memorial Stadium, where student Walter Gordon was a star of the football team more than 100 years ago.

Daniella Lake: Walter Gordon, especially, is one of my favorites because he was the first all-American football athlete in the history of the University of California.

Anne Brice: Daniella Lake is a fourth-year Berkeley student in media studies. As an audio producer of the tour, she voiced many of its stops.

Daniella Lake: He was also the city of Berkeley’s first Black policeman. And, like I mentioned, the first Black student to graduate from the law school and then a federal judge and then the governor of the Virgin Islands.

And he just did it all and was so multitalented. And I just love that so much because it also shows that you can have multiple interests and you can succeed at different things. So I just love, love hearing his story.

Anne Brice: The Black history tour was created by Black Lives at Cal, an African Thriving Initiative that publicizes, celebrates and defends the legacy of Black people on Berkeley’s campus. The multi-year initiative is a collaboration between the African American Student Development Office and the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues.

The tour weaves through campus, making stops at 14 different locations, each highlighting an important person or landmark related to Black history.

Among the stops are Ida Louise Jackson Graduate House, Barbara Christian Hall, the Campanile, Sproul Plaza and the law school. Berkeley student Heaven Jones created original artwork for each stop.

Daniella Lake: I feel like it has helped me feel welcome on campus. I know a lot of students, especially students of color, Black students, feel a lot of imposter syndrome. And I feel like with this tour, just learning the history really helps combat that.

Because when I look at all these different parts of campus — when I look at Memorial Stadium, I see Walter Gordon and how accomplished he was and all the things he did. When I walk on Sproul Plaza, I hear MLK’s speech, and I think about how an undergraduate student suggested renaming the ASUC Student Union to the MLK Jr. Building.

So just knowing this history, walking around campus, and knowing it, you really feel like you belong. Black people have been here for the past 100 years and if they were doing all these amazing things then, I can surely do it now.

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Bay Area

Berkeley Considers New Law to Help Tenants Buy Where They Rent

Renée, a Berkeley resident, was dismayed last summer when she saw the final sale price of the four-plex where she and members of her family have lived for 20 years. It wasn’t because the amount was high – it is Berkeley, after all. She was shocked because she’d bid on the property and offered $44,000 more than the new owner paid for it. It just didn’t make sense. Then she found out why her landlord wouldn’t sell it to her. “I didn’t want to sell to you because of [your nephew], I don’t trust him,” the landlord said.

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Displacement in Berkeley’s African American community is rampant, caused by the steep decline of renters who make up two-thirds of Black households in the city.
Street sign in Berkeley. iStock photo by SimeonDonov.

By Chris Schildt
Friends of Adeline

Renée, a Berkeley resident, was dismayed last summer when she saw the final sale price of the four-plex where she and members of her family have lived for 20 years. It wasn’t because the amount was high – it is Berkeley, after all.

She was shocked because she’d bid on the property and offered $44,000 more than the new owner paid for it. It just didn’t make sense. Then she found out why her landlord wouldn’t sell it to her.

“I didn’t want to sell to you because of [your nephew], I don’t trust him,” the landlord said.

An African American small business owner for many years, Renée was hardly unfamiliar with racist dog whistles and the stereotyping of her family members — but this one hit hard.

When the new owner took over, she started making troubling changes that threatened Renée’s ability to operate her licensed in-home daycare. With the help of the Eviction Defense Center and the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board, she and her fellow tenants have been able to halt efforts to increase the rent and other unlawful acts. But if her previous landlord had sold her the building, she never would have had to deal with this harassment.

“I have felt discriminated against and harassed by these intimidating practices on the basis of my age, gender, race, and economic status,” said Renée. “I feel this type of intimidation is an effort to frustrate me into leaving the place my family and I have lived in for decades.”

Displacement in Berkeley’s African American community is rampant, caused by the steep decline of renters who make up two-thirds of Black households in the city. Like Renée, many have lived in their homes for decades. But even with the city’s robust rent control laws and anti-eviction protections, many find it hard to stay because outside investors buy homes and push tenants out.

This is especially true in historically African American South Berkeley, where Renée lives and where one-bedroom apartment rents have skyrocketed to $2,000 a month or more.

The Berkeley City Council is considering legislation that would help prevent the kind of displacement pressures Renée and other tenants face.

The Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) helps tenants to become first-time homeowners by giving them an opportunity to buy their homes when their landlord decides to sell. If the landlord decides not to take the tenant’s offer, TOPA gives tenants a chance to match any other offer the landlord receives. For Renée, this would have given her the chance to own her home – and for $44,000 less than she had originally offered.

Another South Berkeley resident, Jonathan (not his real name), an immigrant from Africa, has lived in his apartment for over 30 years. When the property went up for sale last year, he wasn’t concerned – he’s lived there through three different owners and has gotten along with all of them in the past. This time, however, the new owners made it clear that they wanted him gone.

He looked for other housing options in South Berkeley near his job but found nothing at the price he currently pays for his rent-controlled apartment. The Eviction Defense Center was able to help him negotiate to stay in his own apartment, but he no longer feels welcome at home and worries that his landlords might try to force him out again.

TOPA allows tenants to work with land trusts and nonprofits to help fund the purchases and designates the home as affordable housing if public subsidies are used to buy it. In San Francisco, a similar law has helped preserve over 200 units as affordable housing since it passed in 2019.

TOPA was first introduced as an ordinance in 2020 in Berkeley and was reintroduced this past fall when investor purchases and a surge in evictions renewed interest in this policy.

TOPA is supported by the Berkeley NAACP branch, Healthy Black Families, the Berkeley Black Ecumenical Ministers Alliance, the Friends of Adeline, and others. Advocates for fairness and affordable housing are urging community members to contact Berkeley City Council members and ask them to support TOPA.

For more information on TOPA and guidance on how to take action, please visit www.yes2topa.org. To get involved, please contact the Friends of Adeline at friendsofadeline@gmail.com.

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