News from Sacramento » Laura FRIEDMAN

It’s hard to imagine that back in January many of us ushered in the beginning of a new decade with not a semblance of what challenges were in store for us. It’s been tough. We’ve battled the virus while working to keep food on the table for unemployed constituents and business owners, and a roof over their heads. We’ve fought off record-setting wildfires and made it through an incredibly divisive and consequential election year.
As soon as the pandemic hit our community, my office devoted the majority of our time to helping constituents navigate the Employment Development Dept., COVID testing, healthcare and other essential relief programs. I’m proud to report that my office has been able to connect over a thousand of our neighbors and friends with the help they need – be it unemployment benefits, free meals or essential services. And I’m grateful that we have been able to partner with community leaders and businesses to ensure our first responders and frontline workers have proper personal protective equipment.
While my staff and I invested most of our resources in these efforts, we also rolled up our sleeves and kept to the business of performing our duties in the legislature.
I began the year with a legislative package of 24 bills, seeking to tackle a range of topics including the housing crisis, environmental sustainability and reducing our wildfire risk. However, as the pandemic began ravaging communities throughout the state, I had to make tough choices and pare down significantly my legislative package. I’ve focused on securing resources for our district and working with my colleagues to help mitigate the negative impacts of the pandemic on our public health and economy.
The first piece of legislation is one that I am particularly proud of, AB 1979. This measure will help provide access to housing for transition-age foster youth, an effort I have been working on for the last few years. California was one of the first states to opt into the federal opportunity to create an Extended Foster Youth Program in 2010. The program has shown numerous benefits over the past decade – from improvements in education and employment, to reductions in pregnancy and incarceration. However, the data also shows that transition-age foster youth are still facing barriers when it comes to their housing. Thirty-five percent of youth report experiencing homelessness while they are actively enrolled in extended foster care. This is totally unacceptable – I knew it had to be fixed. When this measure goes into effect in January, transition-age foster youth will have increased housing options. The changes will require counties to regularly evaluate their housing stock, cut the red tape of the approval process and ensure housing options are stable. Foster youth are all of our responsibility, and their needs are even greater during the pandemic. I am so grateful to my colleagues and the governor for supporting my effort to help ensure that no foster youth will end up on the streets due to a failure of our system.
Earlier I mentioned our record-setting wildfires. This year, we learned the hard way that wildfires will not take a break while we deal with other emergencies. As a legislator whose district largely resides in a very high fire severity zone, and as the chair of Assembly Natural Resources, I felt it was my duty to continue my work to keep our communities safe from wildfire. One of those measures, AB 3074, earned the governor’s signature. This bill will protect Californians living in high fire hazard areas, such as the Crescenta Valley, by modernizing defensible space protections through the creation of a third defensible space zone called an ember-resistant zone. While this measure will not end wildfires in our communities, our firefighters and fire experts agree that it is a long overdue safety measure that will greatly reduce the loss of property and lives in the event of wildfire.
My final piece of legislation signed into law this year was AB 276, a measure that was a direct response to the impact of COVID-19 on our workforce. During the pandemic, many Californians faced with unemployment and economic hardship have taken loans from their retirement accounts. However, due to a lapse in state law, many were facing a 10% penalty for doing so. For this reason, AB 276 conforms state tax law to the provision of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that removes penalties for those taking a loan from their employer-sponsored defined contribution program.
I cannot tell you how many constituents came to me with this issue. While this bill is not a silver bullet, it was a quick fix that will save Californians hundreds of thousands of dollars in unnecessary fines and penalties.
Each of these bills received strong bipartisan support and I’m incredibly proud of that.
2020 has been a tough year. Millions of Californians are struggling and, while there is light on the horizon, I know that many of you are coping with heartbreaking challenges. As we enter the holiday season, it brings me so much hope to see our ongoing strength and resolve in the face of extraordinary tribulation. I know we are not out of this crisis and I am determined to continue to work on behalf of all of you to keep you safe, protect our jobs and businesses, and to strive for a better future for us all.
As always, please reach out to me with any comments, questions or concerns through my District Office at (818) 558-3043 or Assemblymember.Friedman@Assembly.ca.gov.
Laura Friedman represents Burbank, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Montrose, and the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Atwater Village, East Hollywood, Franklin Hills, Hollywood Hills, Los Feliz, and Silver Lake.