Administration Announces “Workload Budget”
On March 24, the California Department of Finance (DOF) notified all state agencies, departments, and the state Legislature that they would be moving forward with developing a “workload budget,” which essentially uses the prior year Budget as a baseline with no additional funding changes. DOF further warned that no additional budget proposals would be considered and that all new budget proposals, including those proposed in the January Budget, would be re-evaluated based on expected economic impacts resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Governor will be releasing his May Revision of the Budget in early May, and the constitutional deadline for the Legislature to pass the State Budget is June 15, 2020. This year’s May Revision will be a striking contrast to the January Budget proposal given the drastic shift in priorities and the anticipated downturn in the economy. Adding to the uncertainty is the April 15, 2020, personal income tax deadline being delayed. Whereas in a typical year personal income tax receipts in April help inform revenue outlook for the upcoming fiscal year, those revenues will be delayed with income tax receipts now coming due after the Budget is approved and in the next fiscal year (July 15, 2020).

This announcement adds significant uncertainty to several budget items CASA has been working on, including the proposed resources Bond and new $1 billion Climate Catalyst Fund. We will continue monitoring the development of the State Budget and any changes to existing or proposed funding that may be of interest to wastewater agencies.

State Water Resources Control Board Releases Press Advisory on Flushing Wipes
The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) issued a press advisory on March 17, 2020, advising the public to avoid flushing disinfectant wipes and paper towels because of the problems they pose for sewer systems. The press advisory was prompted by several bay area agencies experiencing a surge in non-flushable debris causing spills or near-spills. These agencies in turn reached out to the Board asking for help with generating public awareness. The onslaught of wipes debris is suspected to be associated with local and statewide health directives encouraging people to wipe down surfaces with disinfecting wipes to prevent the spread of disease. Adding to the problem is a national toilet paper shortage contributing to increased use of alternatives such as “flushable” wipes, baby wipes, or other non-flushable products. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) followed in suit with a Press Release outlining the implications of flushing wipes and encouraging all Americans to flush toilet paper only.

Many agencies are already experiencing or expect to see additional debris and maintenance issues associated with the non-flushable products. If your agency has been experiencing an uptick in challenges associated with non-flushable debris during the COVID-19 crisis, we want to hear from you! Your stories strengthen our ability to advocate for better labeling. Please contact Jessica Gauger and share your agency’s experience.

In the News: COVID-19 and Wipes
The news advisory released by the SWRCB triggered a sizeable amount of local and national media coverage. CASA received inquiries from multiple reporters and put together a media statement regarding the reports of agencies experiencing increases in problems as a result of the activities related to COVID-19. Over the course of the week there has been a fair number of articles being released from national news outlets like CNN and The New York Times, which referenced CASA’s campaign hashtag #WipesClogPipes. There has also been great coverage from local news outlets including CBS San Francisco which features our very own CASA Vice President, Jason Dow.

In light of the COVID-19 Crisis and influx of media requests to both CASA and individual agencies, CASA has prepared a Media Resources Toolkit to aid in agency outreach. We created this resource in hopes that the tools are simple enough to “copy + paste” to social media platforms or other communications, so that you and your teams can keep continued focus on the pressing issues facing agencies at this time. Please feel free to use the contents as you see fit.

Visit the CASA Wipes webpage for more information on the statewide and national media interest in wipes and for communications resources for agencies to help spread the message on pollution prevention. Please contact Alyssa Downs if you have any questions, comments, or communications requests.