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Updated: 4 hours 16 min ago

L.A. County Jobless Rate Held Steady in February, Before COVID-19 Shutdowns

Fri, 2020-03-27 17:31

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Los Angeles County held steady at 4.3% in February, compared to the previous month, the state Employment Development Department reported Friday, although the numbers predate the massive shutdowns that have occurred since due to coronavirus.

The February unemployment rate was below the February 2019 rate, which was 4.7%, according to the EDD.

In Orange County, where seasonally adjusted numbers were not available, the February jobless rate was 2.8%.

Statewide, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 3.9% in February, the same rate as January, but below the 4.3% rate in February 2019.

According to the EDD, total nonfarm employment in Los Angeles County increased by 41,200 between January and February to reach more than 4.6 million. The information sector led the way by adding 12,600 job

Online Friday Seminar for Businesspeople Examines L.A.’s COVID-19 Crisis Fund

Fri, 2020-03-27 06:12
Above at left, Pasadena resident Lucy Jones. At right, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce President Maria S. Salinas

The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, in cooperation with Wells Fargo and the Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society founded by Pasadena resident Lucy Jones, is holding a weekly COVID-19 Small Business Forum Webinar Series starting Friday morning.

Jones will translate the science of the pandemic and impacts on business, with city and county representatives providing information on business resources and guidance.

The series will be an online discussion designed to assist small businesses in Los Angeles County impacted by the coronavirus emergency.

This Friday, the webinar series will include a presentation on the LA Emergency COVID-19 Crisis Fund by the City of Los Angeles, and another presentation on the COVID-19 Resource Portal by the County of Los Angeles Office of Emergency Management.

The speakers will include Sonya Kay Blake, Director of Community Business at the Los Angeles City Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, and Azusena Favela, Deputy Director at the LA County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs.

Maria S. Salinas, President and CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, is scheduled to present an overview of the webinar series as well as current policy announcements for Chamber members.

Jones will provide the opening remarks.

The series also will feature lenders specializing in small business lending for community development who will share information about their services.

These virtual forums will allow for Q&A. Questions will be collected and posted after each week’s forum.

To register for the webinar series, visit www.zoom.us/meeting/register/uJQocuutrTwijhQQuvRznBpUcIdAoh24xA.

Call Center, Website to Assist LA County Business Owners, Workers Opens

Thu, 2020-03-26 18:53
Image Courtesy LACountyHelpCenter.org

A centralized call center and website providing free, one-on-one counseling and support for business owners and workers who have been affected by the coronavirus emergency opened Thursday.

The Los Angeles County Business and Worker Disaster Help Center will assist businesses in determining the applicability of public health orders and accessing state and federal resources, including recent relief packages from the state and federal governments, emergency loans and workshare programs, according to Joseph M. Nicchitta, director of the county’s Department of Consumer and Business Affairs, which will jointly operate the center with the Department of Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services.

The help center will also assist individuals with filing unemployment insurance claims, finding employment opportunities and discovering available county resources, Nicchitta said.

The center will be open to answer calls and electronic requests for assistance weekdays from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. It can be reached by calling 833-238- 4450, online at LACountyHelpCenter.org, by email at DisasterHelpCenter@lacounty.gov and by social media at @LACHelpCenter on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

The center is staffed by multilingual employees from such Los Angeles County agencies as the Chief Executive Office; Office of Emergency Management; Child Support Services; county counsel’s office; Internal Services Department; Treasurer and Tax Collector, Library, Department of Public Health and Department of Regional Planning along with the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.

Green Dot Hires Former NetSpend Boss Dan Henry as New CEO

Thu, 2020-03-26 05:49

Green Dot Corporation, a national financial technology leader based in Pasadena, has appointed payments veteran Daniel Henry as CEO and President effective March 25, to succeed William I. Jacobs, who has served as interim CEO since January 2020.

Henry will also join the Board of Directors. Jacobs will remain Board Chair, a position he’s held since 2016. J. Christopher Brewster, who has served as interim president since January 2020, will transition to his role as board member and chair of the Audit Committee.

The leadership transition is the result of a comprehensive search process, Green Dot Corporation said in a statement Wednesday.

“Dan is a highly regarded leader and accomplished executive with operational expertise and over two decades of deep experience in the fintech space,” Jacobs said. “The Board and management team are confident Dan is the perfect candidate to lead Green Dot into its next chapter and we want to thank our consultants and other stakeholders, including Starboard Value LP, for their support and guidance during our search process.”

“I am honored to join Green Dot and look forward to working with the company’s many talented team members to continue driving the mission of transforming the financial services industry through powerful partnerships and innovative products and services,” Henry said. “I see significant potential to build upon Green Dot’s solid foundation that combines its bank charter with its market-leading Banking as a service fintech platform.”

Henry was former CEO of Netspend, a leading provider of prepaid debit cards for personal and commercial use, from 2008 to 2014. In 2010, he led Netspend through its initial public offering, and in July 2013 completed an all-cash sale of the company to TSYS Corporation.

Prior to Netspend, Henry co-founded Euronet Worldwide, which handles secure electronic financial transaction processing, where he served as President and Chief Operations Officer until the end of 2006; he remained on the Euronet board until 2008.

Henry has been Chairman of Paysign Inc., a vertically integrated provider of innovative prepaid card programs, digital banking and processing services for corporate, consumer and government application, since 2018. He also has been a director of The Brink’s Company since 2017.

Headquartered in Pasadena, Green Dot Corporation has additional facilities throughout the U.S. and in Shanghai, China.

Innovative Pasadena Burger Restaurant Will Launch “Pay With Your Face”

Wed, 2020-03-25 07:45

Customers driving through or picking up their orders from Caliburger in Pasadena will soon be “paying with their faces,” instead of using credit cards or cash, both of which could carry pathogens and complicate the problems authorities are now facing as they strive to contain the coronavirus.

Cali Group, which owns Caliburger, said Tuesday they will be deploying new technology tools – including using PopPay, a face-recognition enabled pay service – in their restaurants to fight the spread of viruses like COVID-19.

The new tools will initially be implemented in Caliburger’s store in Pasadena, the company said in a statement. The store is located at 245 E. Green Street.

“Cali Group is focusing its resources on new tools for the restaurant and retail industries to survive the current crisis,” John Miller, Cali Group’s Chairman, said. “Our portfolio of companies offer various solutions for food production, delivery, take out, and drive thru.”

The new systems that will be in place in the Pasadena store include entry screening, where devices attached to the doors will measure the body temperatures of restaurant staff, delivery drivers, and guests as the store opens for take-out and delivery; contactless ordering and payment using PopPay which enables payment without any contact with a touch panel; and increased kitchen automation, where AI-driven robots, such as Flippy – the burger-flipping robot made by Pasadena-based Miso Robotics – will automate food preparation and reduce the amount of human contact with food.

With entry screening, anyone who registers a fever on the device sensor will not be allowed entry into the restaurant. During the hours when the store is not open for take-out and delivery, restaurant staff can also opt to use the facial recognition system built into the device at the same moment as the fever scan to unlock the door in a single step.

Caliburger’s statement said the technology could be applied to other buildings such as retail stores, offices, and homes. Wider adoption of the system could also serve to identify hot spots and spikes in the spread of COVID-19 and other transmissible viruses.

For the contactless ordering and payment tool, customers may need to register for PopPay through www.popid.com to be able to use their faces to complete orders. Caliburger said they’re installing new payment terminals in-store. Customers can also order and pay using PopPay on the CaliBurger web site, www.caliburger.com.

On using AI-driven robots, Caliburger said they have demonstrated how Flippy can be used to reliably automate both the grill station and fry station, resulting in less employee turnover, increased productivity, and greater food consistency.

“Miso’s platform is a path to substantially reduce pathogen contamination in food,” Buck Jordan, CEO of Miso Robotics, said. “By automating tasks such as frying and grilling, Flippy can give operators and consumers confidence that their food is being prepared in a more sterile environment.”

Following Pasadena, CaliBurger intends to implement these technologies in all of its restaurants, the statement said.

Dignity Health Launches COVID-19 Virtual Visits

Tue, 2020-03-24 07:07

In an effort to ease the demand on urgent care facilities as a result of the coronavirus pandemic — and to reduce exposure potential — Dignity Health announced Monday the start of free virtual consultations for anyone experiencing mild to moderate symptoms characteristic of COVID-19.

The service is a safe and convenient way for people to speak with a medical professional for advice without needing to visit a physical care location,” Dignity Health spokeswoman Christina Zicklin said in a statement.

Patients interested in a consultation via Virtual Care Anywhere must request one via dignityhealth.org/virtualcareanywhere, or using the “Virtual Care Anywhere” app on the Apple App Store or Google Play store. Patients can also call 855-356-8053 and use code COVID19. After requesting a virtual care visit, patients will typically receive follow-up communication by a provider within 15-30 minutes, although high demand may result in longer wait times, Zicklin said.

Although the service typically carries a $35 per visit fee, patients who think they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms will receive a fee waiver.

Virtual consultations are recommended for patients who are experiencing “less severe symptoms of COVID-19, such as a low-grade fever, a cough or shortness of breath,” according to Zicklin.

“Virtual urgent care visits are one way we will help patients with COVID-19 symptoms assess their options for treatment or testing,” said Julie J. Sprengel, Dignity Health Southwest Division president. “Virtual visits allow for timely care delivery without putting other patients or our clinicians at risk for contracting the virus. And while it’s not intended to replace in-person care visits, it will help reduce patient volumes at care sites, so we can serve those who need care the most.”

In Pasadena, Dignity Health lists a clinic at 225 South Lake Avenue. The phone number there is (626) 744-2200.

Popular El Portal Restaurant Starts GoFundme Campaign As Business Restrictions Hit

Tue, 2020-03-24 06:47

Well-known Pasadena restaurateur Abel Ramirez has started a GoFundMe page to help pay his employees.

Ramirez said while he agrees the severe restrictions on businesses are “the correct course of action to help preserve the health of our patrons, our staff, and the greater Pasadena community,” he said “that decision has come at a cost.”

The volume of business from take-out and delivery orders is insufficient for Ramirez to continue to pay for the team which has made El Portal’s regular “dining experience a great one – servers, dishwashers, bussers, cooks, bartenders.”

Those workers have seen elimination of or deep reductions in work hours, Ramirez explained.

“These team members — many of whom you, like us, consider family — are the people who are being hit the hardest,” he wrote.

“Therefore, we have started this Go Fund Me drive to help support the staff that makes up the backbone of El Portal and Yahaira’s Cafe. We sincerely hope that our many friends and longtime patrons come together to support those who are most in need,” Ramirez wrote.

As of Monday morning, the campaign has raised $2,100. Ramirez hopes to raise $12,000.

City officials have called on local residents to continue to support local businesses. The “Safer at Home” orders issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the County of Los Angeles calls on local residents to stay in their homes, but allows them to leave to get food.

This is the first known account of an online fundraising campaign by a Pasadena business to help pay employees.

Pasadena Broker Urges Retail Landlords To Offer Rent Breaks In COVID-19 Crisis

Mon, 2020-03-23 20:56
Bill Ukropina

Businesses that have been severely hurt or closed altogether by the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis can lay off employees or cut costs in all manner of other ways – but one cost that won’t go away is rent.

It comes due every month, whether a business is booming or shuttered or somewhere in between.

Now — with some city leaders fearing that many businesses won’t survive and reopen after the COVID-19 crisis passes — one prominent Pasadena commercial real-estate broker is urging retail landlords to bite the bullet and offer reduced rents, at least temporarily, to tenants who have been affected economically.

“For those tenants that have been consistently paying rent on time if requested, we advise you to give them a reasonable rental concession,’’ Bill Ukropina, managing director at Coldwell Banker Commercial in Pasadena, wrote last week in an email to what he estimated was 82 or 83 local commercial property owners and others in the industry.

In an interview with Pasadena Now, Ukropina stressed that his unsolicited advice was coming solely from him, and that he was not speaking on behalf of the vast Coldwell Banker company.

He urged landlords to be “empathetic, courteous and thoughtful.”

“This crisis is affecting many tenants, especially retailers’ abilities to pay landlord’s rent,’’ he wrote.

“Many of you receiving this letter are making hundreds of thousands or more of annual net income from buildings I have sold you the past 35 years. It is time to be empathetic to your tenants. You should listen carefully to your tenants’ requests for rent reductions or other concessions.’’

Ukropina said that, beyond the obvious goodwill of reducing rents, it also makes good business sense.

“This temporary crisis will pass and I sincerely believe landlords who are empathetic, courteous and thoughtful will benefit profusely in the future,’’ he wrote.

“This is because most of your tenants will appreciate the temporary financial concession, will survive this crisis, and appreciate what you did for them. Plus, you will have a better chance to renew their lease in the future.’’

Ukropina noted in the email that one of the landlords he represents had a tenant paying $27,800 per month when the COVID-19 crisis struck and crunched the woman’s retail business.

That’s a situation that will only get worse, and wider, in the coming weeks, following “Safer at Home” orders from the city, county and state that require all “non-essential” businesses to close until at least April 19.

“I immediately met with the landlord and we agreed to reduce her rent by 50 percent to $13,900, for a period of two months, this April and May,’’ Ukropina wrote. “We also agreed that the tenant would pay back the landlord half the reduction, (half of $27,800 = $13,900) within one year.’’

That renter was hardly alone is taking a huge hit during the coronavirus crisis. Earlier this week, five prominent Pasadena restaurateurs met with Councilman Victor Gordo and reported that, since the crisis began, their businesses have fallen off by between 65 percent and 80 percent.

While Ukropina urged retail landlords to be empathetic, he also urged caution.

“Some tenants use these challenging times to receive a rent reduction when they don’t need it,’’ he wrote. “Listen to their needs carefully and use your best judgment regarding what to offer, if anything. You do not have to decide the first time you talk to your tenants … you have the right to state that, ‘I will respond back to you.’ ”

Ukropina’s letter came a few days after the City Council approved an eviction moratorium, safeguarding both residential and commercial renters for non-payment if those renters have been affected economically by fallout from the pandemic.

The moratorium will be in place as long as the city’s local emergency remains in effect – and while it prevents evictions for non-payments, it also requires that any unpaid rent be satisfied within six months of the city emergency being officially lifted.

Critics of the council’s move said that six months is an unfairly short amount of time for tenants who’ve been hit economically by COVID-19 fallout to recover and settle up on unpaid rents.

Dignity Health Launches COVID-19 Virtual Visits

Mon, 2020-03-23 12:57

In an effort to ease the demand on urgent care facilities as a result of the coronavirus pandemic — and to reduce exposure potential — Dignity Health announced Monday the start of free virtual consultations for anyone experiencing mild to moderate symptoms characteristic of COVID-19.

“The service is a safe and convenient way for people to speak with a medical professional for advice without needing to visit a physical care location,” Dignity Health spokeswoman Christina Zicklin said in a statement.

Patients interested in a consultation via Virtual Care Anywhere must request one via dignityhealth.org/virtualcareanywhere, or using the “Virtual Care Anywhere” app on the Apple App Store or Google Play store. Patients can also call 855-356-8053 and use code COVID19. After requesting a virtual care visit, patients will typically receive follow-up communication by a provider within 15-30 minutes, although high demand may result in longer wait times, Zicklin said.

Although the service typically carries a $35 per visit fee, patients who think they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms will receive a fee waiver.

Virtual consultations are recommended for patients who are experiencing “less severe symptoms of COVID-19, such as a low-grade fever, a cough or shortness of breath,” according to Zicklin.

“Virtual urgent care visits are one way we will help patients with COVID-19 symptoms assess their options for treatment or testing,” said Julie J. Sprengel, Dignity Health Southwest Division president. “Virtual visits allow for timely care delivery without putting other patients or our clinicians at risk for contracting the virus. And while it’s not intended to replace in- person care visits, it will help reduce patient volumes at care sites, so we can serve those who need care the most.”

Popular El Portal Restaurant Starts GoFundme Campaign As Business Restrictions Hit

Mon, 2020-03-23 06:00

Well-known Pasadena restaurateur Abel Ramirez has started a GoFundMe page to help pay his employees.

Ramirez said while he agrees the severe restrictions on businesses are “the correct course of action to help preserve the health of our patrons, our staff, and the greater Pasadena community,” he said “that decision has come at a cost.”

The volume of business from take-out and delivery orders is insufficient for Ramirez to continue to pay for the team which has made El Portal’s regular “dining experience a great one – servers, dishwashers, bussers, cooks, bartenders.”

Those workers have seen elimination of or deep reductions in work hours, Ramirez explained.

“These team members — many of whom you, like us, consider family — are the people who are being hit the hardest,” he wrote.

“Therefore, we have started this Go Fund Me drive to help support the staff that makes up the backbone of El Portal and Yahaira’s Cafe. We sincerely hope that our many friends and longtime patrons come together to support those who are most in need,” Ramirez wrote.

As of Monday morning, the campaign has raised $2,100. Ramirez hopes to raise $12,000.

City officials have called on local residents to continue to support local businesses. The “Safer at Home” orders issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the County of Los Angeles calls on local residents to stay in their homes, but allows them to leave to get food.

This is the first known account of an online fundraising campaign by a Pasadena business to help pay employees.