CA Gov. Gavin Newsom announces program to support local governments during power outages

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a $75 million program Friday aiming to help local governments respond to the effects of power shut-offs.

The $75 million is a one-time appropriation in the 2019 state budget aimed at helping local governments during future PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoffs, or PSPS. With the funding, local governments will be able to purchase equipment — including generators and fuel stations — to keep fire stations, community services, healthcare centers and other “essential facilities” operating during PSPS events.

“PG&E failed to maintain its infrastructure and Californians are facing hardship as a result,” Newsom said in a press release. “For decades, they have placed greed before public safety.”

According to the press release, half of the program’s $75 million will be granted to county governments on the basis of county size and experience. While all counties will receive at least $150,000, some cities like Los Angeles, San Jose, San Diego and Oakland will receive an additional $500,000.

Additionally, $8 million will be reserved for other incorporated cities and $1.5 million will be given to tribal governments.

The grant can also be used for backup emergency communications equipment in the event of future power outages, and $37.5 million has been allocated to ensure state departments and agencies can continue operations and maintain public services.

Newsom’s announcement has been met with support from some city politicians, including Berkeley City Councilmember Rigel Robinson, who praised Newsom’s new program.

“The City of Berkeley has been providing as much assistance as possible with the resources available,” Robinson said in an email. “This extra boost from the state will assist greatly in providing essential services to the community.”

On Oct. 21, Newsom openly criticized utility corporations such as PG&E and urged them to speak with local governments to decrease the impact of power outages as well as refund customers who were affected.

In a letter to William Johnson, president and CEO of PG&E, Newsom demanded the company provide a rebate to customers who were affected by the outages. The rebates would come out to $100 for residential customers and $250 for small businesses.

Newsom also criticized PG&E for the length and scope of the outages. He added that the company failed to provide customers with adequate information about the shut-off due to website crashes and “unacceptably long wait times.”

“We must do everything we can to support Californians, especially those most vulnerable to these events,” Newsom said in a press release. “These funds will help local governments address these events and assist their most vulnerable residents.”

Contact Blake Evans at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @Blake_J_Evans.