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California makes change to pay unemployment benefits faster

California makes change to pay unemployment benefits faster

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration on Thursday announced a major change in how the state pays unemployment benefits, potentially unlocking payments for up to 100,000 people who have gone weeks or months without assistance.Getting unemployment benefits is a two-step process. First, state officials must decide if people are eligible. If they are, the state starts paying them. But those people must contact the state every two weeks to confirm they are still eligible to keep getting paid.Sometimes, state officials must investigate residents’ eligibility after they have been paid. When this happens, the state stops paying them until the investigation is complete. Before the pandemic, these investigations usually did not take too long. But during the pandemic, the state has been overwhelmed with millions of claims that have caused lengthy delays.The Employment Development Department announced Thursday it would keep paying people unemployment benefits even while they are investigating their eligibility. The change is part of a lawsuit settlement between the state and the Center for Workers’ Rights, an advocacy group.The change applies only to people who have certified for benefits and have already received at least one week of payment in the past. Daniela Urban, the group’s executive director, said it could impact up to 100,000 people.“This is a monumental change by EDD that will allow more claimants to be paid on time,” she said.Unemployment claims skyrocketed across the country during the pandemic, causing backlogs in many states. Claims have slowed since then, but California still has more than 3 million people receiving some form of unemployment benefits. The state has had a persistent backlog throughout the pandemic.The change is not without risk for Newsom, who is facing a recall election in September. The governor has been heavily criticized for failing to stop billions of dollars in fraudulent benefit payments to prison inmates and others who were not eligible to receive them. But he’s also faced complaints for a growing backlog of people with legitimate claims who have been unable to get paid because of a complex bureaucracy overwhelmed by the pandemic.“There’s a continuing trade-off between rapid payment of unemployment insurance claims and anti-fraud protocols,” said Michael Bernick, a former Employment Development Department director who is now an attorney for the Duane Morris law firm. “This action today in paying continuing claims that have had previous verifications seems to have low fraud risks, while reducing the backlogs.”It’s possible this action will cause the state to pay people who are not eligible. In a news release, the Employment Development Department said people who get benefits when they are not eligible could have to pay those back at some point. But it is possible to waive repayment if people claim financial hardship and the overpayment was not the result of fraud.State Assemblyman Jim Patterson, a Republican from Fresno, said the state’s action is a “stunning admission that they can’t do their fundamental task” of paying legitimate claims while rooting out fraud.“Now to clear their giant backlog, they’re going to take the dangerous risk of paying fraudsters, too,” Patterson said.Since March 2020, more than 23 million people have filed unemployment claims in California, and the state has paid $160 billion in benefits. Meanwhile, more than 226,000 people are still waiting for the state to resolve their claims and pay them.They include 57-year-old Abdulkarim Adam, who lost his job as a bus driver for a private company during the pandemic. The state stopped paying him unemployment benefits in March and never told him why, he said.Adam had to borrow money from friends and move in with his sons while he waited. He said he called the state every day but could not get through. He was surprised to later receive a text message from the agency, asking for feedback on their customer service.Adam said he replied with a flattering message, hoping that would spur the agency to pay him faster. When that didn’t work, he later sent an angry message comparing the agency to the authoritarian dictatorship in North Korea.He was relieved on Thursday to finally hear about the state’s policy change and hoped it would get him his money faster.“It will ease a lot of financial difficulties, and it will improve our lives,” he said.The Employment Development Department received more than 5.8 million calls from 421,005 unique callers in the final two weeks of June, according to a report posted on the department’s website. The department said it answered 478,749 calls during that period.Urban said many of those calls were from people like Adam wondering why their benefits were halted. She said fewer of those people will likely call now that they know their benefits won’t be interrupted.“I think it will allow claimants to be more confident in relying on the support of these unemployment benefits, while they still have them, as they look for post-pandemic work,” she said.

Governor asks Californians to voluntarily cut water use

Governor asks Californians to voluntarily cut water use

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday asked people and businesses in the nation’s most populous state to voluntarily cut how much water they use by 15% as the Western United States weathers a drought that is rapidly emptying reservoirs relied on for agriculture, drinking water and fish habitat.The water conservation is not mandatory, but it demonstrates the growing challenges of a drought that will only worsen throughout the summer and fall and is tied to more intense wildfires and heat waves. Temperatures in parts of the region are spiking again this week but are less extreme than the record heat wave that may have caused hundreds of deaths in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia in late June.California’s most important reservoirs are already at dangerously low levels and will likely reach historic lows later this year. Lake Oroville in Northern California is at 30% capacity, and state officials worry water levels could get so low they might have to shut down a hydroelectric plant later this year. Along the Russian River, officials fear Lake Mendocino could empty later this year.“This is jaw-dropping, what’s happening in the West Coast of the United States,” Newsom said Thursday during a news conference at Lopez Lake, a reservoir in San Luis Obispo County formed by a dam on the Arroyo Grande Creek that is at 34% capacity.A historic drought tied to climate change is gripping the U.S. West and comes just a few years after California declared its last dry spell over in 2016. The earlier drought in California depleted groundwater supplies and changed how people use water, with many people and businesses ripping out landscaping and replacing it with more drought-tolerant plants.Compared to before the previous drought, urban water usage in California is down an average of 16%. But scientists say this drought is already hotter and drier than the earlier one, accelerating the impact on people and the environment.California’s Mediterranean climate means it doesn’t get significant rain or snow until the winter. The state relies on snowmelt in the mountains to fill its reservoirs in the spring, which then provide water for farms, homes and fish throughout the year.Some big storms in January made officials optimistic about avoiding water shortages this year. But the soil was so dry that instead of melting into runoff to fill rivers and reservoirs, much of the snow in the mountains instead seeped into the ground.“What we didn’t understand was we had this deepening and intensifying drought underground,” said Karla Nemeth, director of the California Department of Water Resources. “It really is the speed at which the compounding effects of climate change in soil moisture and ambient temperatures have made this drought a very different kind of drought. It’s no longer a slow-moving train wreck.”Given how low California’s reservoirs already are, Nemeth said Newsom’s request for people to use less water is about planning for next year. The Democratic governor is asking for voluntary conservation efforts, such as taking shorter showers, running dishwashers only when they are full and reducing the frequency of watering lawns.Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, called Newsom’s response “too little, too late.” She said her group and others warned the state at the end of 2020 to prepare for the drought. She said Newsom has been given “bad advice” by state officials.“They let too much of the water out of the system for industrial agriculture users,” she said. “Our water resources and public trust resources like salmon fisheries have been squandered for almonds and other unsustainable crops.”Farmers, meanwhile, have complained about their water allocations being severely cut this year. Nemeth said the state released water from Lake Oroville largely to satisfy water quality requirements in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, formed by those two river systems that feed into the San Francisco Bay.“We released more than we had planned because much of that water never made it to the delta — it was diverted by other water users instead,” she said.Some local governments already have imposed mandatory water restrictions. And in Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown directed state agencies this week to stop watering lawns, washing windows at their offices and running fountains that don’t recirculate water.In Nevada, a new law bans nearly a third of grass in the Las Vegas area, targeting ornamental turf at places like office parks and street medians. The ban does not apply to single-family homes, parks and golf courses.In California, Newsom also added nine more counties to an emergency drought proclamation, which now covers 50 of the state’s 58 counties and 42% of the state’s population.Large cities, including Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco, are not included in the proclamation. But Newsom is still asking people who live in heavily populated areas to reduce their water consumption because they rely on rivers and reservoirs in drought-stricken areas for much of their supply.Counties included in the proclamation are eligible for various state actions, including suspension of some environmental regulations.The newly added counties are Inyo, Marin, Mono, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz.

California to pay victims of forced, coerced sterilizations

California to pay victims of forced, coerced sterilizations

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California is poised to approve reparations up to $25,000 to victims who were among the thousands of people — some as young as 13 — who decades ago were sterilized because state officials deemed them unfit to have children.The payments, part of the state’s new $262.6 billion operating budget that is awaiting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature, will make California at least the third state after Virginia and North Carolina to pay victims of the so-called eugenics movement that peaked in the 1930s. Proponents believed sterilizing people with mental illnesses, physical disabilities and other so-called undesirable traits would improve the human race.California’s proposal is unique because it would apply to more than just victims of the eugenics law that was repealed in 1979. The state also will pay female inmates who were coerced to get sterilized, a disgrace first exposed by the Center for Investigative Reporting in 2013.A subsequent audit found the state sterilized 144 women between 2005 and 2013 with little or no evidence that officials counseled them or offered alternative treatment. While all of the women signed consent forms, in 39 cases state officials did not do everything that was legally required to obtain their permission.“We must address and face our horrific history,” said Lorena Garcia Zermeño, policy and communications coordinator for the advocacy group California Latinas for Reproductive Justice. “This isn’t something that just happened in the past.”California’s forced sterilization program started in 1909, following similar laws in Indiana and Washington. California’s program was by far the largest. The state sterilized more than 20,000 people, accounting for about a third of everyone sterilized in the United States under those laws.California’s law was so prominent it even inspired similar practices in Nazi Germany, according to Paul Lombardo, a law professor at Georgia State University and an expert on the eugenics movement.“The promise of eugenics at the very earliest is: ‘We could do away with all the state institutions — prisons, hospitals, asylums, orphanages,’” Lombardo said. “People who were in them just wouldn’t be born after awhile if you sterilized all of their parents.”In California, victims include Mary Franco, who was sterilized in 1934 when she was just 13. Paperwork described her as “feeble minded” because of “sexual deviance,” according to her niece, Stacy Cordova, who has researched her case.Cordova said Franco actually was molested by a neighbor. She said her family put Franco in an institution to protect the family’s reputation.Cordova said her late aunt loved children and wanted to have a family. She married briefly when she was about 17, but Cordova said the marriage was annulled when the man discovered Franco couldn’t have children. She lived a lonely life in a Mexican culture that revered big families, Cordova said.“I don’t know if it is justice. Money doesn’t pay for what happened to them. But it’s great to know that this is being recognized,” said Cordova, who has advocated for the state to pay survivors. “For me this is not about the money. This is about the memory.”Relatives like Cordova aren’t eligible for the payments. Only direct victims are.Sterilizations in California prisons appear to date to 1999, when the state changed its policy for unknown reasons to include a sterilization procedure known as “tubal ligation” as part of inmates’ medical care. Over the next decade, women reported they were coerced into this procedure, with some not fully understanding the ramifications.A state law passed in 2014 bans sterilizations for the purpose of birth control at state prisons and local jails. The law permits sterilizations that are “medically necessary,” such as removing cancer, and requires facilities to report each year how many people were sterilized and for what reason.Questionable sterilizations also occurred in facilities run by local governments. In 2018, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors apologized for the more than 200 women who were sterilized at the Los Angeles-USC Medical Center between 1968 and 1974.Those people are not eligible for reparations under California’s program. But advocates say they hope to include them in the future.“It’s only the beginning,” said state Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, a Democrat from Los Angeles who has been advocating for reparations. “I can’t imagine the trauma, the depression, the stress of being incarcerated, being rehabilitated, and trying to start your life again in society, wanting to start a family, only to find out that that choice was taken away from you.”Of the people California sterilized under its old eugenics law, just a few hundred are still alive, according to research conducted by California Latinas for Reproductive Justice. Including the inmates who were sterilized most recently, the group estimates more than 600 people would be eligible for reparations.But finding them will be difficult. The group estimates only about 25% of eligible people will ultimately apply for reparations and be paid.California’s Victim Compensation Board will run the program, with $2 million to find victims by advertising and poring through state records. The state also set aside $1 million for plaques to honor the victims, leaving $4.5 million for reparations.

California weighs extending eviction protections past June

California weighs extending eviction protections past June

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom says California will pay off all the past-due rent that accumulated in the nation’s most populated state because of the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, a promise to make landlords whole while giving renters a clean slate.Left unsettled is whether California will continue to ban evictions for unpaid rent beyond June 30, a pandemic-related order that was meant to be temporary but is proving difficult to undo.Federal eviction protections also are set to expire on June 30. California had passed its own protections that applied to more people.Newsom and legislative leaders are meeting privately to decide what to do, part of the negotiations over the state’s roughly $260 billion operating budget. An extension of the eviction ban seems likely to give California more time to spend all the money to cover unpaid rent. But landlords and tenants’ rights groups are arguing over how long that extension should last.“The expectation for people to be up and at ’em and ready to pay rent on July 1 is wholeheartedly unfair,” said Kelli Lloyd, a 43-year-old single mother who says she has not worked consistently since the pandemic began in March 2020.Lloyd — a member of the advocacy group Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment — is supposed to pay $1,924 a month for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom rent-controlled apartment in the Crenshaw district of south Los Angeles. But she says she’s $30,000 behind after not working for most of the last year to care for her two children as day care centers closed and schools halted in-person learning.That debt will likely be covered by the government. But Lloyd said she recently lost a job at a real estate brokerage and hasn’t found another one yet. She’s worried she could be evicted if the protections expire.“Simply because the state has opened back up doesn’t mean people have access to their jobs,” she said.Meanwhile, in the wine country area of Sonoma County, property manager Keith Becker says 14 tenants are more than $100,000 behind in rent payments. It’s put financial pressure on the owners, who Becker says have “resigned themselves to it.”But they have grown weary of the seemingly endless protections, which he noted were aimed at addressing a public health emergency and not meant to be permanent.“We should do our best to get back to the starting point where we were in December of 2019. Anything other than that is taking advantage of a crisis,” he said.California has $5.2 billion to pay off people’s rent, money from multiple aid packages approved by Congress. That appears to be more than enough to cover all of the unpaid rent in the state, according to Jason Elliott, senior counselor to Newsom on housing and homelessness.But the state has been slow to distribute that money, and it’s unlikely it can spend it all by June 30. A report from the California Department Housing and Community Development showed that of the $490 million in requests for rental assistance through May 31, just $32 million has been paid. That doesn’t include the 12 cities and 10 counties that run their own rental assistance programs.“It’s challenging to set up a new, big program overnight,” said Assemblyman David Chiu, a Democrat from San Francisco and chair of the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee. “It has been challenging to educate millions of struggling tenants and landlords on what the law is.”Landlords point to the state’s rapid economic recovery as a reason not to extend the eviction moratorium much longer. California has added 495,000 new jobs since February. In April alone, California accounted for 38% of all new jobs in the U.S. This week, Newsom lifted all restrictions on businesses, heralding it as the state’s grand reopening.“We’re getting back to normal,” Carlton said. “It’s time to go back to work. It’s time to pay the rent.”While employment among middle- and high-wage jobs has exceeded pre-pandemic levels, employment rates for people earning less than $27,000 a year are down more than 38% since January 2020, according to Opportunity Insights, an economic tracker based at Harvard University.“The stock market may be fine, we may be technically reopened, but people in low-wage jobs — which are disproportionately people of color — are not back yet,” said Madeline Howard, senior attorney for the Western Center on Law and Poverty.Some housing advocates are asking the state to keep the eviction ban in place until the unemployment rate among low-wage workers has dropped to pre-pandemic levels. It’s similar to how state officials would impose restrictions on businesses in counties where COVID-19 infection rates were higher while those with lower infection rates could reopen more quickly.Advocates say they were encouraged when Newsom told Univision earlier this month that he “definitively” wants to extend the eviction protections beyond June 30.“We’re cautiously optimistic,” said Francisco Duenas, executive director of Housing Now California. “We definitely need these protections as part of our recovery.”

California weighs extending eviction protections past June

California weighs extending eviction protections past June

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom says California will pay off all the past-due rent that accumulated in the nation’s most populated state because of the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, a promise to make landlords whole while giving renters a clean slate.Left unsettled is whether California will continue to ban evictions for unpaid rent beyond June 30, a pandemic-related order that was meant to be temporary but is proving difficult to undo.Federal eviction protections also are set to expire on June 30. California had passed its own protections that applied to more people.Newsom and legislative leaders are meeting privately to decide what to do, part of the negotiations over the state’s roughly $260 billion operating budget. An extension of the eviction ban seems likely to give California more time to spend all the money to cover unpaid rent. But landlords and tenants’ rights groups are arguing over how long that extension should last.“The expectation for people to be up and at ’em and ready to pay rent on July 1 is wholeheartedly unfair,” said Kelli Lloyd, a 43-year-old single mother who says she has not worked consistently since the pandemic began in March 2020.Lloyd — a member of the advocacy group Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment — is supposed to pay $1,924 a month for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom rent-controlled apartment in the Crenshaw district of south Los Angeles. But she says she’s $30,000 behind after not working for most of the last year to care for her two children as day care centers closed and schools halted in-person learning.That debt will likely be covered by the government. But Lloyd said she recently lost a job at a real estate brokerage and hasn’t found another one yet. She’s worried she could be evicted if the protections expire.“Simply because the state has opened back up doesn’t mean people have access to their jobs,” she said.Meanwhile, in the wine country area of Sonoma County, property manager Keith Becker says 14 tenants are more than $100,000 behind in rent payments. It’s put financial pressure on the owners, who Becker says have “resigned themselves to it.”But they have grown weary of the seemingly endless protections, which he noted were aimed at addressing a public health emergency and not meant to be permanent.“We should do our best to get back to the starting point where we were in December of 2019. Anything other than that is taking advantage of a crisis,” he said.California has $5.2 billion to pay off people’s rent, money from multiple aid packages approved by Congress. That appears to be more than enough to cover all of the unpaid rent in the state, according to Jason Elliott, senior counselor to Newsom on housing and homelessness.But the state has been slow to distribute that money, and it’s unlikely it can spend it all by June 30. A report from the California Department Housing and Community Development showed that of the $490 million in requests for rental assistance through May 31, just $32 million has been paid. That doesn’t include the 12 cities and 10 counties that run their own rental assistance programs.“It’s challenging to set up a new, big program overnight,” said Assemblyman David Chiu, a Democrat from San Francisco and chair of the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee. “It has been challenging to educate millions of struggling tenants and landlords on what the law is.”Landlords point to the state’s rapid economic recovery as a reason not to extend the eviction moratorium much longer. California has added 495,000 new jobs since February. In April alone, California accounted for 38% of all new jobs in the U.S. This week, Newsom lifted all restrictions on businesses, heralding it as the state’s grand reopening.“We’re getting back to normal,” Carlton said. “It’s time to go back to work. It’s time to pay the rent.”While employment among middle- and high-wage jobs has exceeded pre-pandemic levels, employment rates for people earning less than $27,000 a year are down more than 38% since January 2020, according to Opportunity Insights, an economic tracker based at Harvard University.“The stock market may be fine, we may be technically reopened, but people in low-wage jobs — which are disproportionately people of color — are not back yet,” said Madeline Howard, senior attorney for the Western Center on Law and Poverty.Some housing advocates are asking the state to keep the eviction ban in place until the unemployment rate among low-wage workers has dropped to pre-pandemic levels. It’s similar to how state officials would impose restrictions on businesses in counties where COVID-19 infection rates were higher while those with lower infection rates could reopen more quickly.Advocates say they were encouraged when Newsom told Univision earlier this month that he “definitively” wants to extend the eviction protections beyond June 30.“We’re cautiously optimistic,” said Francisco Duenas, executive director of Housing Now California. “We definitely need these protections as part of our recovery.”

Drought saps California reservoirs as hot, dry summer looms

Drought saps California reservoirs as hot, dry summer looms

OROVILLE, Calif. — Each year Lake Oroville helps water a quarter of the nation’s crops, sustain endangered salmon beneath its massive earthen dam and anchor the tourism economy of a Northern California county that must rebuild seemingly every year after unrelenting wildfires.But the mighty lake — a linchpin in a system of aqueducts and reservoirs in the arid U.S. West that makes California possible — is shrinking with surprising speed amid a severe drought, with state officials predicting it will reach a record low later this summer.While droughts are common in California, this year’s is much hotter and drier than others, evaporating water more quickly from the reservoirs and the sparse Sierra Nevada snowpack that feeds them. The state’s more than 1,500 reservoirs are 50% lower than they should be this time of year, according to Jay Lund, co-director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California-Davis.Over Memorial Day weekend, dozens of houseboats sat on cinderblocks at Lake Oroville because there wasn’t enough water to hold them. Blackened trees lined the reservoir’s steep, parched banks.At nearby Folsom Lake, normally bustling boat docks rested on dry land, their buoys warning phantom boats to slow down. Campers occupied dusty riverbanks farther north at Shasta Lake.But the impacts of dwindling reservoirs go beyond luxury yachts and weekend anglers. Salmon need cold water from the bottom of the reservoirs to spawn. The San Francisco Bay needs fresh water from the reservoirs to keep out the salt water that harms freshwater fish. Farmers need the water to irrigate their crops. Businesses need reservoirs full so people will come play in them and spend money.And everyone needs the water to run hydroelectric power plants that supply much of the state’s energy.If Lake Oroville falls below 640 feet (195 meters) — which it could do by late August — state officials would shut down a major power plant for just the first time ever because of low water levels, straining the electrical grid during the hottest part of the summer.In Northern California’s Butte County, low water prompts another emotion: fear. The county suffered the deadliest U.S. wildfire in a century in 2018 when 85 people died. Last year, another 16 people died in a wildfire.Walking along the Bidwell Canyon trail last week, 63-year-old Lisa Larson was supposed to have a good view of the lake. Instead, she saw withered grass and trees.“It makes me feel like our planet is literally drying up,” she said. “It makes me feel a little unsettled because the drier it gets, the more fires we are going to have.”Droughts are a part of life in California, where a Mediterranean-style climate means the summers are always dry and the winters are not always wet. The state’s reservoirs act as a savings account, storing water in the wet years to help the state survive during the dry ones.Last year was the third driest on record in terms of precipitation. Temperatures hit triple digits in much of California over the Memorial Day weekend, earlier than expected. State officials were surprised earlier this year when about 500,000 acre feet (61,674 hectare meters) of water they were expecting to flow into reservoirs never showed up. One acre-foot is enough water to supply up to two households for one year.“In the previous drought, it took (the reservoirs) three years to get this low as they are in the second year of this drought,” Lund said.The lake’s record low is 646 feet (197 meters), but the Department of Water Resources projects it will dip below that sometime in August or September. If that happens, the state will have to close the boat ramps for the first time ever because of low water levels, according to Aaron Wright, public safety chief for the Northern Buttes District of California State Parks. The only boat access to the lake would be an old dirt road that was built during the dam’s construction in the late 1960s.“We have a reservoir up there that’s going to be not usable. And so now what?” said Eric Smith, an Oroville City Council member and president of its chamber of commerce.The water level is so low at Lake Mendocino, along the Russian River in Northern California, that state officials last week reduced the amount of water heading to 930 farmers, businesses and other junior water-rights holders.“Unless we immediately reduce diversions, there is a real risk of Lake Mendocino emptying by the end of this year,” said Erik Ekdahl, deputy director for the State Water Board’s Division of Water Rights.Low water levels across California will severely limit how much power the state can generate from hydroelectric power plants. When Lake Oroville is full, the Edward Hyatt Power Plant and others nearby can generate up to 900 megawatts of power, according to Behzad Soltanzadeh, chief of utility operations for the Department of Water Resources. One megawatt is enough to power between 800 and 1,000 homes.That has some local officials worrying about power outages, especially after the state ran out of energy last summer during an extreme heat wave that prompted California’s first rotating blackouts in 20 years. But energy officials say they are better prepared this summer, having obtained an additional 3,500 megawatts of capacity ahead of the scorching summer months.The low levels are challenging for tourism officials. Bruce Spangler, president of the board of directors for Explore Butte County, grew up in Oroville and has fond memories of fishing with his grandfather and learning to launch and drive a boat before he could drive a car. But this summer, his organization has to be careful about how it markets the lake while managing visitors’ expectations, he said.“We have to be sure we don’t promise something that can’t be,” he said.Low lake levels haven’t stopped tourists from coming yet. With coronavirus restrictions lifting across the state, Wright — the state parks official for Northern California — said attendance at most parks in his area is double what it normally is this time of year.“People are trying to recreate and use facilities even more so (because) they know they are going to lose them here in a few months,” he said.———Associated Press writer Brian Melley in Los Angeles contributed to this report.———This story has been updated to correct that the potential shutdown of a Northern California hydroelectric power plant this year would be a first due to low water levels at Lake Oroville.