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California lawmakers approve US$500m coronavirus package

[SACRAMENTO] California lawmakers approved an emergency US$500 million spending package to help combat the coronavirus pandemic.

The money will be used to lease two hospitals, finance equipment and assist clinics, nursing homes and other facilities. Some of the funds will pay for cleaning daycare centers so they can remain open and to help stop the spread of the virus among the homeless. The legislation allows for another US$500 million appropriation if needed.

Lawmakers approved an additional measure providing US$100 million to schools and also allowing them to maintain funding levels even though many districts are closed because of the crisis.

Governor Gavin Newsom, who declared a statewide emergency Sunday, sent a letter to lawmakers Monday urging them to vote for the package.

The most populous US state has more than 335 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and at least six deaths. Most of the San Francisco Bay Area neared a shutdown Monday with officials telling the 6 million people who live there to stay home except for essential needs starting at midnight.

"Our state, our nation, and our world are facing a challenge unprecedented in modern times," Mr Newsom said in the letter to legislators prior to the vote. "The COVID-19 pandemic compels us all to find new ways of coming together, even as we must also seek out new ways of staying apart."