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California effort will employ restaurant workers to provide meals for seniors during pandemic

Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state will launch a far-reaching program to provide three meals a day to California senior citizens in need during the coronavirus pandemic, employing out-of-work restaurant workers and funded largely by the federal government.

"It's not just about the meals," Newsom said during his midday news briefing. "It's about a human connection, about someone just checking in as they're delivering those meals and making sure people are OK."

The program will provide $66 a day per senior in funding for the daily meals. Newsom said the effort will launch immediately, focused on seniors who are either at risk for COVID-19 or have limited income. He said payments for the food will generate sales tax revenues to help support local government budgets that have been hit hard by the closure of retail businesses and restaurants.

"We're just very excited about this partnership," Newsom said.

The announcement comes as California passes the six-week mark of the statewide stay-at-home order in hopes of slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus. Newsom insisted the effort is working and urged the state's residents to continue to practice physical distancing, especially this weekend as warm weather is expected to draw many outdoors.

Newsom said local officials will play a part in organizing which restaurants and employees participate in the program to feed seniors who are home and without the means to regularly purchase food.

"We know we can't tolerate hunger," said Kim McCoy Wade, director of the California Department of Aging. "That's why we're so excited today by the partnership with our restaurants."

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