SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday announced a new partnership with FEMA, and city and county officials to prepare and deliver meals to the state’s seniors in a program that would help the beleaguered restaurant industry at the same time.

Newsom introduced the idea as a partnership with FEMA that would take care of the state’s seniors most important needs by making sure they are fed while also addressing the issue of isolation.

“To take care of our seniors’ most important needs, and that is their nutritional needs, to make sure that they are fed. To address the issue of isolation. We estimate that some 1.2 million of our seniors in the state of California live alone,” said Newsom. “There’s over 5.7 million older Californians, but 1.2 million live alone, socially isolated, unable in many respects to cook their own meals, unable to be provided the kind of nutrition and support they deserve.”

Newsom added once the stay-at-home orders begin to be eased, that seniors would continue to be a focus of the state’s efforts since relaxed orders will likely come later for seniors who are more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19.

Through the new program that Newsom said was “the first in the nation,” seniors would receive three nutritious meals a day while restaurants would earn money by providing food, enabling the re-hiring of some employees who had been laid off during the shelter order.

The seniors eligible for the program would be those who are at high risk of exposure to COVID-19, economically below the poverty level and have a compromised immune system, according to Newsom.

FEMA will partially reimburse up to $16 for breakfast, $17 for lunch and $28 for dinner for each senior in the meal delivery program for a total of $66 per day, allowing a significant portion of the state’s 5.7 million seniors and 1.2 million seniors that live alone to eat healthy meals consistently. FEMA will reimburse 75 percent of all meal services while the state will cover three-quarters of the remaining 25 percent burden that would normally fall to county governments.

“It’s not just about the meals,” Newsom said. “It’s about a human connection. It’s about someone just checking in as they’re delivering those meals to make sure people are okay. So it extends a wellness narrative.”

The Governor said the program begins immediately. Seniors wanting to see if they’re eligible can call 2-1-1 or visit the state’s main COVID-19 website.

Newsom noted that the program would be about providing meals, but also about providing some human contact to those isolated seniors living alone.

Newsom also announced that the state was broadening the access to the emotional support hotline. People needing someone to talk to can call the Friendship Line at 888-670-1360.

Kim McCoy Wade, the Director of California’s Department of Aging also spoke, thanking seniors for leading the way in abiding by the state’s stay-at-home order.

“We see you. We see the leadership that you have shown in staying home, in driving that curve down and being the first to go home on March 15th,” said McCoy Wade. “We see the sacrifice that you older adults are making. You are not at your jobs, whether in health care or hospitals or the halls of congress.”

The Governor offered his usual reminder that those who are young and feel health need to continue to follow the stay-at-home order for the safety of those seniors who are more vulnerable.

Newsom said 93 new coronavirus deaths were reported in the past 24 hours in California, with a five percent increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases.

The good news was that hospitalizations saw a flattening since Thursday with no increase, while ICU numbers were slightly up by one percent.

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