How California’s AB-5 Hinders Coronavirus Response

According to California’s Legislative Analyst, Assembly Bill 5, authored by San Diego Democrat Lorena Gonzalez, has already affected more than 1 million independent contractor and freelance working Californians, and the list of industries impacted by the law has surged past 300. As these independent Californians struggle to earn a living, AB-5 is also harming the effort to counter the coronavirus.

As former congressman Doug Ose told the California Globe. “Those challenges are particularly acute in rural California, where hospitals and clinics don’t have sufficient patient loads to support full time positions in a number of physician and nursing specialties.” In the past, “such needs have been met by contracting with independent contractors to provide services. That approach is problematic now that AB-5 has become law.”

Ose is urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to deploy emergency powers and waive AB-5 for rural hospitals and medical clinics. If AB-5 was not suspended, Ose wrote, “then the consequences of the coronavirus collapse will be magnified.” In similar style, the consequences for independent workers are also magnified.

“At a time when most Californians can’t work outside the home,” Assemblyman Kevin Kiley told the Globe, “AB-5 is stopping many of them from working inside the home.” Suspending AB-5, Kiley said, is an easy move that could “make a big difference.”

Since March 13, unemployment claims have surpassed one million, and on March 27, California health officials reported 4040 cases of coronavirus resulting in 82 deaths. At this writing, Gov. Newsom has made no move to restrict AB-5 in any way.

Meanwhile, Assembly Republicans recently advanced a measure to suspend AB-5 while corrective legislation is under consideration. Assembly Democrats rejected the measure, and no action has been taken on Kiley’s Assembly Bill 1928, which would repeal AB-5.

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at American Greatness.
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