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Western Center’s 2021 Legislative Wrap-Up 

The  2021 California legislative season is over, and Governor Newsom has signed the bills that will become law. Many Western Center priorities made it past the governor’s pen, including groundbreaking legislation like SB 62, which makes California an international leader in the fight to end exploitation of people working in the garment industry, and SB 65, which implements proven interventions to lower California’s unacceptably high mortality rate for Black and Indigenous people who give birth here. 

Below is our slate of co-sponsored bills that were signed by the governor this year, as well as those we plan to bring back next year.


SB 62 – The Garment Worker Protection Act seeks to end wage theft in the California garment industry and ensure decent wages for California garment workers by holding California fashion brands to a higher standard of responsibility for the labor of garment workers.  

SB 65 – The California Momnibus is an innovative and comprehensive piece of legislation that reimagines perinatal care in order to close existing racial gaps in maternal and infant mortality and morbidity within the state. 


AB 461 – CalWORKs Self Employment: Creates a more accessible pathway for CalWORKs recipients to choose self-employment as a work activity. This bill is timely as the state begins to rebuild its economy, which will heavily rely on the talents and creativity of Californians with an entrepreneurial spirit. 


AB 326 – Removes the sunset clause to permanently extend the Consumer Protection Program, which awards advocacy fees to any person or organization that represents the interests of consumers and has made a substantial contribution on regulations, orders, or decisions, within the Department of Managed Health Care.

AB 1020 – Enforcement of the Hospital Fair Pricing Act: We hope that passage of this bill means patients no longer need lawyers to benefit from the Hospital Fair Pricing Act. This bill rose directly out of our legal services partners’ experience in trying to enforce the Hospital Fair Pricing Act. Major components include prohibiting hospitals from selling debt to debt buyers unless they meet all the current standards applicable to debt collectors and agree to take a bill back if the patient should have gotten financial assistance, Medi-Cal, or another payor for their bill; requiring debt collectors and debt buyers to also send patients applications for financial assistance; and increasing eligibility for patients for financial assistance from 350% of the poverty level to 400%.

AB 1355 (2-Year Bill Extending Into Next Year) – Expands Independent Medical Reviews to all Medi-Cal beneficiaries to ensure more beneficiaries can access medically necessary care. Also improves the state’s fair hearing process. 

SB 644 (2-Year Bill Extending Into Next Year) – Allows California’s unemployment department to share information with Covered California when someone applies for or loses benefits to help individuals apply for Covered California or Medi-Cal.


AB 832 – Extended the temporary halt on evictions for nonpayment of rent until September 31, 2021. The bill also created additional tenant protections in court that may halt an eviction if the tenant qualifies and has an approved application for rent relief. For more information, please refer to our COVID-19 tenant relief fact sheet. To apply for financial assistance please visit

AB 838 – Enforcement Response to Housing Complaints: Prohibits local code inspection agencies in California from implementing restrictions or preconditions before responding to tenant habitability complaints. The bill specifically prohibits code enforcement agencies from refusing to inspect a unit based on unreasonable conditions, including on the basis that the tenant is behind on rent, is alleged to be in violation of their lease, or is currently in an unlawful detainer (eviction) or other legal dispute with the landlord.

AB 1304 – Affirmatively Further Fair Housing: Strengthens requirements for cities and counties to analyze and proactively address fair housing issues as part of their obligation to affirmatively further fair housing. The bill requires the housing element to include an analysis of how the jurisdiction’s inventory of housing affirmatively furthers fair housing; requires that in assessing contributing factors to fair housing issues, jurisdictions look through both a local and a regional lens, take race into account, and examine historical context; and requires jurisdictions to state explicit goals, objectives, and policies related to affirmatively furthering fair housing. 

SB 91 – Expanded protections provided by AB 3088 (2020) and established a statewide rental relief program that pays up to 100% of arrears, prospective rent, and utilities for households experiencing COVID-19 financial hardships. The bill also extended a temporary halt on evictions for nonpayment of rent until June 2021. SB 91 prohibited landlords from charging or attempting to charge late fees and explicitly prohibits the sale or assignment of any unpaid COVID-19 rental debt. 

As California’s eviction moratorium ends Friday, some protections remain for tenants

“Tina Rosales, an attorney and policy advocate for the Western Center on Law and Poverty, said some tenants don’t know they can halt an eviction proceeding by simply completing an application for assistance and many don’t have lawyers to help them. She’s afraid some might get spooked once the moratorium ends and “self-evict.”

“Yes, (state law) does have protections, but those protections rely heavily on a legal system that is not tenant friendly at all,” she said.”

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EPIC News – August 2021

Back to Session

The California Legislature is back from summer recess, which means it’s down to the wire for getting bills passed. The last day for each house to pass bills is September 10th. Check here for the status of Western Center bills as they reach the end of this year’s session.

Fighting to End Wage Theft in California’s Garment Industry

Earlier this month, to kick of the Legislature’s return, our partners at Garment Worker Center in Los Angeles loaded a bus at midnight, after a long day of work, to come to Sacramento to advocate for SB 62, The Garment Worker Protection Act, which seeks to end wage theft in the California garment industry and ensure decent wages. We are co-sponsoring the bill with the Garment Worker Center for the second year in a row because California is home to widespread workplace injustice. In fact, Los Angeles is understood to be the sweatshop capital of the United States.

Currently, many brands producing in California (some selling $78 t-shirts) pay garment workers as little at 11 cents per piece – leaving wages well below the state minimum. California can and should do better to ensure economic dignity for the thousands of workers in its substantial garment industry by passing SB 62.

Check out the video from our day in Sacramento with the Garment Worker Center.

Big Win in Los Angeles for COVID Tenant Protections

Last week, California’s Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the City of Los Angeles’ COVID tenant protections, which were challenged by The Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles. Western Center and our partners at Public Counsel, The Public Interest Law Project, and Susman Godfrey LLP represent two tenants’ rights organizations, ACCE Action and Strategic Action for a Just Economy (SAJE), who successfully sought to intervene in the lawsuit to defend the ordinances.

The recent Ninth Circuit decision is an important affirmation of the ongoing need for COVID protections to protect public health and keep people housed.

Western Center senior attorney Nisha Vyas explains more about the case here.

Women’s Equality Day & Women’s Equal Pay Day

August 26th was Women’s Equality Day, the day we remember the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted some women in the United States the right to vote. Of course, back in 1920 there were plenty of other systemic barriers to voting, especially for women of color. Too much of that struggle still exists today, which is why we must remember the fights that brought us the rights we have now, as well as the work that remains. To that end, we hope every California voter reading this will cast a ballot in the Gubernatorial Recall Election on or before September 14th.

Native Women’s Equal Pay Day is coming up on September 8th; according to the Equal Pay Today campaign, Native Women earn approximately 60 cents on the dollar of white, non-Hispanic men. September 8th is the day Native women must work into 2021 to make what white men made by the end of 2020. The Equal Pay Day movement includes days of acknowledgement throughout the year that represent the dates women must work into a new year to be paid what men were paid the previous year.

Garden Party: Mark Your Calendar! 

Western Center’s annual Garden Party fundraiser is Thursday, October 14th from 6-7pm PDT. We will highlight our work from the year and honor the amazing contributions of five stellar individuals. And since it’s virtual, you can join from wherever you are!

Get details and tickets here.

LA County extends eviction ban. What’s holding up California’s statewide moratorium?

“But renters in other parts of California are not protected from eviction. And that could lead to a looming eviction crisis, according to Tina Rosales, a policy advocate from Western Center on Law and Poverty. “If the state doesn’t extend the ban for those tenants, then we’re going to have a lot of people who are evicted when there’s billions of dollars in the bank waiting to be released to landlords for the purpose of preventing that exact problem,” she tells KCRW.”

Listen Here


Study: Lifting eviction moratoriums leads to higher COVID-19 case rates, deaths

“The researchers noted that not everyone who contracted the virus as a result of lifted moratoriums had necessarily been evicted. Rather, some of the additional cases and deaths were caused by what Madeline Howard, senior housing attorney at the Western Center on Law and Poverty, called a “ripple effect” of people moving in with friends and family, couch surfing, or crowding homeless encampments. “It’s not only about people affected by the evictions, it hurts the whole community,” said Howard.”

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Victory for COVID Tenant Protections in Los Angeles

Last Friday, Judge Dean Pregerson denied the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles’ motion for preliminary injunction to stop enforcement of the City of Los Angeles’ COVID-related tenant protections.

The Apartment Association filed a lawsuit in federal court to challenge, on constitutional grounds, the city’s ability to enact COVID-related tenant protections: one barring evictions for nonpayment of rent or certain lease violations for COVID-related reasons during the local emergency period, which is ongoing, and one barring rent increases for rent control units during the local emergency period. Western Center, along with Public Counsel, The Public Interest Law Project, and Susman Godfrey LLP, represent two tenants’ rights organizations, ACCE Action and Strategic Action for a Just Economy (SAJE), who successfully sought to intervene in the lawsuit to help defend the ordinances. Since the lawsuit was filed, California enacted AB 3088, which overlaps significantly with the eviction protection ordinance. While AB 3088 goes further to protect tenants in some ways, the city’s ordinance goes further in others.

In September, the Apartment Association filed a motion for preliminary injunction, asking the court to suspend the enforcement of the two ordinances while the lawsuit is pending. It argued that the Association was likely to succeed on the merits of the case, and that landlords would suffer irreparable harm if the ordinances stayed in place. The Association relied on its claim that the ordinances violate the US Constitution’s Contract Clause, which forbids the state (or local governments) from making laws that substantially impair contracts without a reasonable basis for making those laws, and a claim that the ordinances violated landlords’ due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.

The court denied the Association’s motion, stating that “even though the court is persuaded that [the Apartment Association] will be able to show that the Moratorium substantially impairs landlords’ contract rights, [the Apartment Association] is not likely to succeed on its Contract Clause claim because any such impairment appears, at this stage, to be eminently reasonable under the extraordinary circumstances.” The court also disposed of the Association’s Due Process claim in a footnote: “Substantive due process provides no basis for overturning validly enacted state statutes unless they are clearly arbitrary and unreasonable, having no substantial relation to the public health, safety, morals, or general welfare.”

The court, noting that the Apartment Association had basically conceded that the state law is constitutional, further stated, “[The Apartment Association] has failed to show that the preliminary injunction it seeks will prevent the harms it alleges. The Moratorium represents but one layer of protection Los Angeles renters currently enjoy. California state authorities have not remained idle in the face of the COVID crisis. In late August, the state legislature passed Assembly Bill 3088, the COVID-19 Tenant Rights Act.”

While the court upheld the City of LA’s ordinance, and found that landlord interests must yield to the “vital interests of the public as a whole,” in his ruling, Judge Pregerson urged the federal government to act in order to avoid the burgeoning “war” between landlords and tenants, brought on by the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic:

This Court will defer to the judgment of local authorities, who have the unenviable task of weighing all of the relevant considerations and choosing the least of all possible evils. It bears repeating, however, that the COVID-19 crisis is national in scope, and demands a national response.

Landlords and tenants alike are victims of the virus, both literally and economically. Tenants should not have to live in fear of eviction because of a calamity that was not of their making. Landlords should not have to live in fear of losing their hard-earned investments in our community because of a calamity that was not of their making. Our citizens should not have to fight each other to avoid economic and personal ruin.

Courts are an imperfect tool to resolve such conflicts. So too are ordinances and statutes that shift economic burdens from one group to another. The court respectfully implores our lawmakers to treat this calamity with the attention it deserves. It is, but for the shooting, a war in every real sense. Hundreds of thousands of tenants pitted against tens of thousands of landlords – that is the tragedy that brings us here. It is the court’s reverent hope, expressed with great respect for the magnitude of the task at hand, that our leaders, and not the courts, lead us to a speedy and fair solution.

This is an important win in the fight to keep not only Los Angeles renters housed, but also renters throughout California, as it affirms the importance of people staying in their homes in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, and what looks like another wave of shutdowns. We join Judge Pregerson in the hope that we will see more substantial solutions from the federal government in the coming weeks and months.

For more about the case, ACCE and SAJE’s joint press release can be read here.

PRESS RELEASE: Tenants seek to join federal lawsuit to defend city of los Angeles’s Covid-19 tenant protections

For Immediate Release

Los Angeles residents fighting to prevent mass displacement and homelessness in the middle of a pandemic

LOS ANGELES – Tenants’ rights organizations the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment Action (ACCE Action) and Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE) seek to join a federal lawsuit to defend the City of Los Angeles’s COVID-19 emergency eviction protections and rent freeze. Public Counsel, the Western Center on Law and Poverty (WCLP), and the Public Interest Law Project (PILP) filed a motion to intervene yesterday in the federal lawsuit Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA) v. City of Los Angeles on behalf of tenant members of ACCE and SAJE. AAGLA’s lawsuit is seeking to void the City’s validly enacted eviction protection and rent freeze ordinances, thereby allowing its members to engage in mass evictions in the midst of a global pandemic — a catastrophe for Los Angeles tenants and the region’s health.

Los Angeles sits at the juncture of three unfolding crises — a global public health pandemic, an ever-increasing homelessness and affordable housing crisis, and a movement for Black Lives that seeks justice for those who are disproportionately experiencing the impacts of the first two crises. “You can’t be safe at home if you don’t have a home. It is unconscionable and immoral for AAGLA to be seeking the right to evict poor families of color in the middle of a global pandemic where eviction can have deadly consequences,” said Faizah Malik, Staff Attorney with the Community Development Project at Public Counsel.

The City of Los Angeles enacted an ordinance in late March to provide tenants with an affirmative defense to certain unlawful detainer actions. The ordinance, among other things, prohibits landlords from evicting tenants who are unable to pay rent due to circumstances related to COVID-19, such as loss of income or healthcare expenses; provides tenants with a 12-month repayment period to pay back rent; and prohibits landlords from evicting tenants based on the presence of unauthorized occupants or pets or for nuisance related to COVID-19.

The City also enacted an ordinance in early May to freeze rent increases for one year for all units protected by the City’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance. AAGLA is seeking to reverse these reasonable and necessary measures to keep people stably housed. “It is crucial for the Court to hear from tenants in this case because they are the ones who are facing eviction, homelessness, and potentially catastrophic health consequences if the Court voids the ordinances,” said Kathryn Eidmann, Senior Supervising Staff Attorney with the Opportunity Under Law Project at Public Counsel.

ACCE and SAJE, as part of the Healthy LA Coalition, fought for the passage of these ordinances. ACCE and SAJE are tenants’ rights membership organizations comprised of low-income and very low-income Black and Brown people in Los Angeles. The majority of their members are severely rent burdened and are one crisis away from homelessness. A majority have lost income during the pandemic and are struggling to pay rent; those that kept their jobs are frontline workers who are risking contracting COVID-19 every day because they have no other choice.

Despite the challenges they are facing, many members are trying to pay rent, at the expense of other necessities like food. At the same time, landlords are seeking and obtaining massive federal subsidies and mortgage relief, but AAGLA still wants the unbridled power to engage in mass evictions. “Rent was due again this week, and for the fourth consecutive month thousands of Angelenos won’t be able to pay it. Without the current protections, many of our members would be displaced, exponentially increasing the already fast-moving gentrification process in the neighborhoods where we organize,” said Joe Delgado, Los Angeles Director of ACCE Action.

Since the ordinances were adopted, tenants have faced increased harassment by landlords employing tactics such as sending excessive notices, forcing tenants to sign repayment agreements, and neglecting essential repairs. Even with these extreme conditions, what tenants fear the most is losing their homes and being forced to live on the street at a time when having a home has never been more important.

“I owe $975 in rent for the month of May. Even though I am working now, it will take me three months to save enough money in order to keep paying the rent month-to-month. I do not want to leave this apartment. I have lived here for 11 years. If the owner evicts me, I will not have anywhere to go. I would be on the street,” said David D*, a tenant and member of SAJE.

“This is an issue of statewide and national concern. Across California and the country, tenants are staring down an impending wave of evictions. We must do everything we can to safeguard the local protections necessary to give tenants a chance at recovering from the COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath,” said Nisha Vyas, Senior Attorney at Western Center.

“The emergency ordinances were reasonable and necessary actions to prevent further devastation. The City was correct to take action to protect tenants and within its powers,” said Michael Rawson, Director of PILP.

*Tenant’s real name protected.

Media Contact: Rekha Radhakrishnan, 832-628-2312, rradhakrishnan[at]


Public Counsel is the nation’s largest pro bono law firm. Founded in 1970, Public Counsel strives to achieve three main goals: protect the legal rights of disadvantaged children; represent immigrants who have been the victims of torture, persecution, domestic violence, trafficking, and other crimes; and foster economic justice by providing individuals and institutions in underserved communities with access to quality legal representation. Through a pro bono model that leverages the talents and dedication of thousands of attorney and law student volunteers, along with an in-house staff of more than 75 attorneys and social workers, Public Counsel annually assists more than 30,000 families, children, immigrants, veterans, and nonprofit organizations and addresses systemic poverty and civil rights issues through impact litigation and policy advocacy. For more information, visit

Western Center on Law & Poverty fights for justice and system-wide change to secure housing, health care, racial justice and a strong safety net for low-income Californians. Western Center attains real-world, policy solutions for clients through litigation, legislative and policy advocacy, and technical assistance and legal support for the state’s legal aid programs. Western Center is California’s oldest and largest legal services support center.

The Public Interest Law Project (PILP) provides crucial litigation, advocacy and training support to local legal services and public interest law programs throughout California serving lower income communities and communities of color. Our work brings affordable housing to lower income families and homeless people, provides access to services and public benefits for lower income persons and persons with disabilities, and protects neglected and abused children and persons displaced by major disasters and government action.