SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KABC) -- In a move he says will allow restaurants across the state to rehire workers, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday an agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and local governments that will employ eateries to prepare and deliver three meals a day to eligible seniors.
The governor said during his daily coronavirus press conference that the first-in-the-nation partnership will provide an "unlimited" number of meals, with restaurants being reimbursed at rates up to $16 for each breakfast, $17 for each lunch and $28 for each dinner.
"Working with FEMA on ways to provide nutritious meals to our seniors, to get them delivered, but to also get them prepared. We started thinking about building a partnership with our restaurants industry, with kitchens, with our hospitality industry that's been ravaged by this pandemic," Newsom said. "This partnership will allow for the ability for restaurants to start rehiring people or keep people currently employed and start preparing meals, three meals a day, seven days a week and have those meals delivered to our seniors all throughout the state of California.
FEMA will cover 75% of the costs of the meals, with the state contributing a majority of the remaining cost, he said.
Newsom noted that in addition to providing business for restaurants that have been forced to dramatically scale back operations, the costs of meals will also generate tax revenue for local governments.
"Now we have the ability to have a locally driven decision-making to start employing workers and get these restaurants reopened and provide hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of prepared meals every day delivered to our seniors throughout the state of California,'' he said.
The governor said eligibility requirements include older adults who are "at high risk of exposure to COVID-19, must be in a position where their economics are below 600% of federal poverty, must have already been impacted or exposed directly to COVID-19 or more broadly have a compromised immune system."
Newsom said exact eligibility requirements will be decided at the local level.
More information on the program program -- dubbed Restaurants Deliver: Home Meals for Older Californians'' can be found here.
Seniors and other adults can also enter their location into 211.org to find local services, such as nutrition, financial, health care and housing assistance.
Newsom said the state estimates 1.2 million seniors in the state live alone.
"Socially isolated, unable in many respects to cook their own meals, unable to be provided the kind of nutrition they deserve," Newsom said.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and death.
City News Service contributed to this report.