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More than half of Californians could become infected with coronavirus, Gov. Newsom says in seeking aid

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday asked Congress for $1 billion in federal funds to support California’s medical response to the novel coronavirus, which he expects will infect more than half of all state residents.

The state projects that roughly 56% of Californians, or 25.5 million people, will be infected with the coronavirus over an eight-week period, Newsom said in a letter sent to President Donald Trump on Wednesday requesting the deployment of the USNS Mercy Hospital Ship to the port of Los Angeles through Sept. 1.

In a separate letter sent to the leaders of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, Newsom said the financial aid is critical to the state’s ability to procure ventilators and other medical supplies, activate state-run hospitals, deploy mobile hospitals and meet other health care needs.

The Democratic governor also requested an expansion of unemployment insurance benefits beyond the 26-week maximum and more funding for Medicaid, federal food assistance, housing and homelessness, state-subsidized early learning and child care and several other safety-net programs.

“The economic disruption caused by this public health crisis will have immediate and devastating effects on our entire country, including too many families in California,” Newsom wrote. “The magnitude of this crisis is extraordinary and federal-state-local government coordination will be more critical than ever before.”

So far, 19 people have died from the coronavirus in California and 958 have tested positive for the disease.

The governor’s request for federal funds comes three days after lawmakers at the state Capitol approved a plan to spend as much as $1 billion on the state’s emergency medical response to the pandemic in anticipation of a surge of sick patients.

Newsom’s letter to Congress also requested support for small businesses, including rental assistance, zero-interest loans and direct-cash assistance, and the creation of a new U.S. Treasury Authority to provide guaranteed loans.

With schools shuttered across the state and teachers struggling to implement online and alternative learning programs, the governor also asked for an expansion of technology investments for schools, an increase in Title 1 funding for schools with a high concentration of poverty, broadband Internet upgrades, grants for teachers to adapt to digital age instruction and more money for U.S. Department of Agriculture Child Nutrition Programs.

“The challenges we face as elected leaders in this crisis are immense,” Newsom wrote. “Working together, I am confident that we can meet this moment and take the necessary and immediate steps to address our economic and societal needs as we continue to address — and begin to recover from — this unprecedented crisis.”

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