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Thursday, May 26, 2022

When Will the Free Ride Be Over?

 With California open again and the pandemic slowing down, you would think our state would start getting back to normal.

Guess again. . .Apparently, it is our new “normal” for residents to be excused from paying rent, utilities, car registration, mortgages, you name it. Regardless of whether there is proof of economic hardship, the government has allowed people to forgo even the most basic participation in our economy and society. And, for lack of better judgment, this lawlessness has continued even in the post-pandemic era.Thousands of Californians are abusing the system, and we need to put an end to it. People assume that they can just get away without paying for the essential services to keep their homes and utilities intact. But in reality, the debts of many are being paid by someone else. Nothing is free. And yet, the state wants to continue to have hard-working individuals and businesses shoulder these costs.Now, the state has extended eviction moratoriums despite multiple stimulus payments and unprecedentedly high unemployment checks. These checks doubled minimum wage in many parts of the country, leaving our essential minimum wage workers with nowhere to go as millions chose to ride out the pandemic without submitting a single job application. This needs to change!California’s Economic Development Department has given out billions to people who didn’t actually qualify for unemployment. Yes, you read that right. . . BILLIONS. Potentially almost $30 billion, but no one really knows the true number. How much more needs to happen before the state realizes this new normal isn’t working?With the reopening of California, people have returned to work, pandemic conditions have improved, and the state and federal governments have set forth substantial direct monetary assistance to help those still affected by the pandemic. Aid should continue for those who have shouldered the burden for others, such as property owners who have been forced to sell their properties, faced severe disturbances and illegal sublets, and prohibited to move their own families into their homes. Emergency eviction moratoria need to revert to pre-pandemic standing. The free ride for those unaffected needs to be over.While aiding those who are genuinely suffering is essential, our sweeping emergency powers have allowed bad actors to take advantage of the system, having absolutely no consequences for their reprehensible actions. These free riders hurt our society, negatively affecting people in real need and putting good actors in bad situations, forcing them to lose their businesses, properties, and most importantly, their livelihoods.

This has gone on long enough, and instead of fixing it, the state still wants to exaggerate these negative effects. We haven’t even talked about the newest attack on businesses – hazard pay premiums. Imagine if you are a grocer that has struggled to crunch numbers for the past 16 months to not lay off any employees during one of the worst economic crises in history. Now, you can breathe a sigh relief as the economy restarts and revenue returns. . . NOT! Without consulting you, Los Angeles County will force you to start paying your workers an extra $5 an hour – that’s 30 percent extra “Hero Pay” after the pandemic has mostly ended and, in theory, people going back to work shouldn’t be “heroes” anymore for doing so. Well, your survival during the crisis was for naught, because you have to shut down. Unsurprisingly, the state has gone right back to suffocating businesses.California is actively choosing to support the bad actors to continue throwing a wrench into the wheels of society while also actively hurting those who are pushing on the gas pedal. Businesses have been vital to our economy – before, during, and after the pandemic – so we cannot allow the state to continue slowing their growth and success.The state needs to open its eyes to the many faults and begin thinking of real, effective solutions that individuals can take advantage of to hinder our growth. We need real solutions. Ones that will carry our state through a successful reopening, sparking economic success and immense growth.They don’t have much time before it’s too late.The free ride needs to be over for the sake of our state and for the sake of those still affected by the pandemic.Stuart Waldman is president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, a business advocacy organization based in Van Nuys that represents employers in the San Fernando Valley at the local, state and federal levels of government.

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