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writers guild vision insurance

The Authors Guild is excited to announce a new health insurance benefit for members to help you navigate your state’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace exchanges and find the right healthcare plan for you and your family, as well as purchase dental, vision, critical care, and other supplemental insurance plans.

Concierge Service to Help Find the Coverage Right for You

We know that many of you have difficulty identifying and securing affordable health insurance; freelance writers rarely qualify for group health insurance and are left on their own to navigate the insurance marketplace under the ACA. The Guild has been working for years to find a viable answer to this problem, and while current laws prohibit us from offering a true association health plan for your primary medical care needs, by forging an alliance with other writing-related groups under the Book Industry Health Insurance Partnership (BIHIP) umbrella, we are able to offer this joint remedy through LIG Solutions.

Supplemental Insurances

LIG Solutions will not only provide concierge services to identify and obtain the best ACA healthcare solution for you and your family, and will also provide the following supplemental insurances:

  • Critical care
  • LIG Solutions Rx Benefits

Members, click the button below to get more information about your health coverage options.

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April 28, 2022

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LAist

Thousands of striking Hollywood actors and writers are risking their health insurance as the labor dispute continues.

Why it matters: For those who qualify for health insurance under the WGA or SAG-AFTRA, the benefits are enviable. That said, members of both unions said it took them years to make enough money to qualify for the union health insurance — while other union members who have worked in the industry for years never have.

What's next: Existing and upcoming state laws may provide help.

Read on... for more details on current health insurance plans in Hollywood and about a mutual aid group to help crew members affected by the strike pay for their health insurance here.

The dual strike by unions representing actors and writers has brought Hollywood to a standstill. It’s the biggest strike in more than six decades as the Writers Guild and actors union SAG-AFTRA together represent more than 170,000 workers who are now on the picket lines instead of at work.

SAG-AFTRA, the actors’ union, sent members a letter on Aug. 30 saying health insurance would be extended until the end of December   for certain members who would otherwise have lost their eligibility on Oct. 1. Members who made at least $22,000 from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023 will continue to get insurance through the end of the year.

Even as union members advocate for better wages, residuals and regulations on the use of artificial intelligence, they know another key benefit is at risk in the short-term: health insurance.

Affordable, generous and increasingly hard to qualify for

The union health insurance is predicated on the notion that members work consistently and lucratively enough to make a minimum amount of money, which makes it difficult to first attain and then sustain.

Often referred to in hushed, reverent tones as the “Cadillac of health insurance” by those who have it, the policy offered by the Writers Guild feels like a holdover from a bygone age.

  • No monthly premiums.
  • $600 per year to cover the rest of your immediate family.
  • Deductibles that are in the hundreds — not thousands — of dollars.

The bar for entry is high. Writers must earn a little over $41,700 in covered union work a year to qualify for coverage and residuals don’t count. The income requirement continues to rise , which coupled with the increasingly uncertain reliability of employment means even experienced writers can have a hard time qualifying.

Writers can accumulate credits by qualifying for WGA health insurance for 10 years and by earning more than $100,000 in covered work. Top earners can rack up three points per year, which can then be cashed in when writers experience a dry spell and can’t make the minimum income requirement, but coverage ends the quarter after the credits are used up.

For example, a writer who qualifies for health insurance for 10 years but earns less than $100,000 can cash in all their points and continue their insurance for up to a year and a half if they are only insuring themselves.

But insuring dependents cost more credits, meaning people with families have less of a stop-gap to fall back on.

As the strike stretches on into another quarter, many union writers are furtively calculating how many credits they have and how long this temporary measure will buy them, if they have credits at all.

Health insurance benefits for actors

In contrast, residual payments do count toward the $26,000 per year that striking SAG-AFTRA members must earn to qualify for health insurance offered by the union — another reason increasing residual payments, especially from streamers like Netflix, are a high priority for members who are on the margins.

Plan premiums from SAG-AFTRA are $125 per month for union members. For a family of four or more, the monthly cost rises to $249 per month or $2,988 per year. That’s less than half of the $6,680 that the average California worker with employer-sponsored health insurance paid for family coverage in 2022, according to a report by the California Health Care Foundation.

Issues with access to these benefits

Members of both unions said it took them years to make enough money to qualify for the union health insurance, while other union members who have worked in the industry for years never have. Both SAG-AFTRA and WGA were approached for interviews about their health insurance offerings. SAG-AFTRA declined to be interviewed and WGA sent LAist a link to their FAQ page .

Could studios and streamers continue coverage?

They could, but it’s unlikely.

In July, IATSE president Matt Loeb  called for studios and streamers to offer an extension of healthcare benefits  to below the line workers who may lose them if they fall short of qualifying during the strikes. IATSE is not on strike.

“Make no mistake — if the studios truly cared about the economic fallout of their preemptive work slowdown against below-the-line crewmembers, they could continue to pay crewmembers and fully fund their healthcare at any moment, as they did in 2020 during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic” Loeb wrote.

Half of the trustees of the Motion Picture Industry Pension & Health Plan are represented by companies involved in the strike. The WGA’s  strike FAQ  tells members “there is no Health Fund requirement that the Health Plan extend health insurance coverage during a strike, and Trustees are 50% management and 50% Guild.”

“The moments that I've been at risk of or have lost health insurance in the past pre-strike were not moments when I wasn't working,” said Susanna Fogel, a filmmaker who is a member of both the WGA and DGA unions. “I was working, but there were particulars to the work that just made it fall short or fall in the wrong month to stay covered. So it was just always a stress,” she said.

Should the unions simply drop the income requirement to a lower amount so more members could qualify? Alex Winter, a longtime member of three industry unions, doesn't think so.

“It seems draconian to turn back to the unions and say, well, since we have these oligarchs who are hoovering up all the profits let's try to take what few squirrel nuts we have and scatter them out amongst whoever survived staying in the industry as opposed to fighting to get equitable pay, which is what we're doing,” Winter said.

A new California law could help strikers on the margins

All California workers who lose their employer-sponsored health insurance may be eligible for the state’s Medicaid program, known as Medi-Cal, or qualify to buy health insurance through Covered California , where they may receive subsidies that bring down the monthly cost of insurance. But those premiums will likely be far higher than SAG-AFTRA or WGA plans, at a time when striking workers are making much less money.

But writers and actors who lose their union health insurance as a result of the strike could benefit from a new California law that took effect July 1, 2023 aimed at averting just that situation.

AB2530 received $2 million in funding under the new state budget. To qualify, a union worker must first lose coverage as a result of the strike. According to Covered California spokesperson Craig Tomiyoshi, eligible workers will have their premiums covered as if their incomes were just above the Medicaid eligibility level .

Here’s an example. A single striking worker in their mid-30s who lives in West Hollywood loses their union health insurance during the strike due to the work stoppage. This person goes to Covered California’s exchange to find health insurance. They make $50,000 and are offered a middle-tier “benchmark” plan that would cost them about $320 a month in premiums. Under the new law for striking workers, that person selecting the same plan would pay nothing in premiums – as if that person made $20,385 a year — for the duration of the strike.

Not all striking workers will enroll in a free plan. Striking workers will be able to pick plans that are more expensive than the benchmark plan. If they do, they will pay the difference in premiums.

“At this point, we are not aware that WGA or SAG-AFTRA members have lost health coverage, but if any Californian has lost coverage, we encourage them to contact Covered California as soon as possible,” Tomiyoshi wrote in an email response. He added that people anticipating losing their union health insurance should also get in touch.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2024, another law kicks in. Covered California will end deductibles on the middle-tier benchmark plans, meaning a striking worker could receive free premiums under one law and no deductibles beginning in the New Year, if the labor dispute lasts that long.

Californians are required to have health insurance for at least nine months of the year, or they risk paying a hefty penalty during tax season.

Crews left out

The new law doesn’t cover crew members who are not part of the striking unions but have lost health insurance due to the work stoppage.

A new mutual aid group was created to fill that gap.

The Union Solidarity Coalition known by the acronym TUSC has raised more than $200,000 to give assistance to IATSE and Teamsters members, said founding member Alex Winter.

“I don't know anyone, honestly, in a lot of the primary crew areas who [aren't] in danger of losing their health insurance, and I know a lot of people who have lost their health insurance,” Winter said.

The idea for the non-profit began with conversations between crews and filmmakers, said Fogel, who is a fellow founding TUSC member.

“Because their coverage is based on the hours that they get within a certain window of time, some of the [crew members] mentioned they or people they knew were at risk for not making their hours due to productions shutting down, or if they opted not to cross a picket line, that could cost them their health insurance,” she said.

TUSC has partnered with the Motion Picture and Television Fund and its Entertainment Health Insurance Solutions, which acts as an insurance navigator for people in the industry.

According to TUSC’s website, “MPTF and EHIS will talk directly to members in need, and get them signed up for the health plan that best suits their needs. The TUSC fund will then pay the premiums.”

Fogel says it’s about making sure that everyone in the industry has access to high-quality health care no matter the current industry conditions.

“Every so often when there's one group of people that are going on strike and it's our turn to strike right now, we just wanted to kind of let the other unions know that we consider ourselves to be part of a collective and we hope that they feel that love from us,” Fogel said.

Ocean with gentle waves cresting on the left, and beautiful cliffs on the right.

Access to a storied surfing spot in Southern California has been almost entirely cut off after the roadway leading into the famed Surf Beach in San Onofre was washed away during this month's powerful atmospheric storms.

Why it matters: The beach has a special place in Southern California's surfing history. The earliest documented surfing took place in an area of the San Onofre coastline nicknamed Old Man's. From then on, the surf culture and community grew, but never strayed far.

Why now: Beach erosion has been eating away at San Onofre for quite some time, but what weakened the roadway to the parking lot was a broken drainage system that was installed in the bluffs above it. Earlier this month, the record-breaking rainfall finished the job.

What's next: California state parks department oversees the beach and is working with stakeholders to rebuild the walkway. No timeline is available.

Go deeper: South OC Has A New(ish) Beach. Here's How They Saved The Sand

Access to a storied surfing spot in Southern California has been almost entirely cut off after the roadway leading into the famed San Onofre Surf Beach was washed away during this month's powerful atmospheric storms.

"There is one way in and one way out to Surf Beach — where Old Man's is — and it's a dirt road that drops in from a bluff up above," said David Matuszak, author of the book, San Onofre: Memories of a Legendary Surfing Beach.

The recently destroyed path led to the dirt parking lot that sits directly on the sand of Old Man's. It wasn't uncommon to find cars lining up to wait for the iconic beach to open in the morning, or for a coveted parking spot on good surf days. The lot itself is as legendary as the break's world famous and mellow waves — the place for tailgates and barbecues for the tight-knit surfing community.

For Matuszak, Surf Beach has looked and felt the same ever since a friend took him there more than four decades ago.

"[The surf] was flat that day. We never got out of the truck, but I was just very impressed with the atmosphere — the dirt road, the flora, the fauna, everything was pretty much natural as you would see in the California coast a hundred years before," he said. "The primitive coastline of San Onofre was just very rare even in those days — and it's even more rare today."

A paved sand lot with cars like vans and sedans parked in it.

A snapshot of San Onofre

Along the miles-long stretch of coastlines that make up San Onofre are multiple surfing breaks, said Matuszak: Trestles, Church, The Point, Four Doors, and the like.

"And then of course Old Man's, which is where it all began back in the 1930s," he said.

That was when the earliest documented instance of surfing took place in San Onofre — in an area that would eventually become better known by its nickname.

"Old Man's is famous for being what we call a slow roller, almost like a Waikiki type of wave," Matuszak said.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by David Matuszak (@sanonofrebook)

Despite the moniker, the crowd it first drew were surfers in their teens and 20s. "It was sex, drug, and rock and roll," he said. "A wild singles scene."

After World War II, many of them returned to San Onofre to surf and start families. As this first generation of surfers began to age, the culture changed along with it. Matuszak said that's probably how the beach got the nickname, as these young guns matured into, well, old men.

"On any given day in the summer at San Onofre, you will see three generations of surfers in the same family out in the water," he said. "You'll see grandpa, you'll see dad, and you'll see a son or a daughter in the water. That sort of culture in surfing is rare."

"The other thing that is very unique about San Onofre is what we call the 'Aloha Spirit,'" Matuszak continued. "That same 1960s aloha, that brotherhood of surfing, a place where it's unusual for somebody to drop in on you on a wave."

When a new young surfer would show what Matuszak termed "bad manners" in the water, the old men at San Onofre would "educate them, shall we say" — just as it was done to him when he was new and young and didn't know better.

A beach with ocean on the left, bluffs on the right, and a nuclear reactor in the background.

Disappearing beach

But like so many beaches up and down the state, San Onofre is at risk of disappearing from the effects of high tides, rising sea levels, and monster storms.

"We've lost 70 feet of coastline in the 40 some years that I've been at San Onofre," said Matsuzak, adding that an estimated 40 feet of it were lost in the last decade alone.

While erosion has been eating away at the beach for quite some time, what weakened the roadway to the parking lot was a broken drainage system that was installed in the bluffs above it. Earlier this month, the record-breaking rainfall finished the job.

"[It was] a very severe, high-level rainstorm with winds, and it was just a lot more than that particular area is accustomed to getting in a small amount of time," said Kevin Pearsall, state park superintendent for the Orange Coast District that oversees San Onofre. "It kind of caught everything off guard, and a lot of the dynamics of infrastructure for parks, in particular vulnerable areas like San Onofre, are made for 100-year storms, not 100-year storms in two days."

Pearsall said the state's parks department is working with the stakeholders to repair the roadway and hopefully to fix it once and for all. That includes the Navy, because the beach is on military property and is being leased to the state.

"We don't have an exact timeline because it's all coming in agreement of who's doing what," said Pearsall, adding that he knows the local surfing community can't wait to regain access to Old Man's.

For now, Old Man's is still reachable, but requires diehards to park elsewhere and either walk or e-bike their boards to the water.

"A lot less people are surfing now, and some of us guys are getting a little older, you know, it gets a little more difficult to jump through all the hoops to get down there, but it's still worth it," said Craig Ephraim, a longtime San Clemente resident and a member of the San Onofre Surfing Club who's been surfing at the spot for decades.

Ultimately, many surfers said there's a bigger issue at play.

"I think we're going to have to try to figure out how to save the beaches, and San Onofre will be one of them," said Scott Cuda, president of the San Onofre Surfing Club. "I would like to think that it would be a priority because it's a gem for the state and it means a lot to a lot of people."

Cuda has been surfing San Onofre for more than two decades. His father-in-law was an original member of the famous surf club, and helped install the volleyball courts at the beach. But the family connections don't stop there.

"It's where my kids have grown up. It's where my family hangs out. It's our special place. There's nothing down the coast like it," Cuda said.

 A postcard image of a church with a large glass facade, high transparent walls, and redwood beams that hold geometric panes of glass in place is situated in a grove surrounded by a low stone wall.

When heavy rainfall caused landslides that forced the closure of Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes last week, congregants and couples with upcoming weddings weren’t the only ones affected. The temporary closure also blocked public access to one of L.A.’s most iconic buildings.

The context: L.A. County is home to 23 National Historic Landmarks, according to the National Park Service . Dubbed “most Instagrammable chapel in L.A” by the Los Angeles Times, Wayfarers Chapel became the newest addition to that list in December 2023.

The history: Wayfarers Chapel was built in 1951 at the behest of the Swedenborgian Church. Members commissioned Lloyd Wright — son of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright — to fulfill their vision of a small church overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

What’s next: The chapel is currently in the midst of a $250,000 GoFundMe campaign . Chapel leadership says the money will be used to refund couples with canceled weddings, and for the expensive repairs needed to eventually reopen the facilities.

Go deeper: Historic Wayfarers Chapel Has Closed To The Public Citing 'Accelerated Land Movement'

When heavy rainfall caused landslides that forced the closure of Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes last week, congregants and couples with upcoming weddings weren’t the only ones affected. The indefinite closure also blocked public access to one of L.A.’s most iconic buildings.

L.A. County is home to 23 National Historic Landmarks, according to the National Park Service . Dubbed the “most Instagrammable chapel in L.A” by the Los Angeles Times, Wayfarers Chapel became the newest addition to that list in December 2023.

“It's the highest level of recognition that you can achieve in historic preservation,” said Los Angeles Conservancy President Adrian Scott Fine. “The fact that this building met the criteria and has achieved that status really does speak to how special it really is.”

Wayfarers is currently in the midst of a $250,000 GoFundMe campaign . Chapel leadership says the money will be used to refund couples with canceled weddings, and to begin the expensive repairs needed to eventually reopen the facilities.

So, why is Wayfarers Chapel such a gem of L.A. architectural heritage? Read on to discover more about the chapel’s history and ongoing significance.

A large crack is visible in the walkway leading up to glass and wood doors of a chapel that is largely glass and wood beams.

The mid-century origins of Wayfarers Chapel

Wayfarers Chapel was built at the behest of the Swedenborgian Church of North America, a small denomination inspired by 18th century Swedish theologian and scientist Emanuel Swedenborg. The church emphasizes an infinitely loving god and personal freedom in matters of belief.

Swedenborgian church members Elizabeth Sewall Schellenberg and Narcissa Cox Vanderlip approached architect Lloyd Wright to fulfill their vision of a small church overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Construction began in 1949 and the church was opened in 1951.

Tourists visit the newly opened Wayfarers Chapel.

A shining example of Organic Modern architecture

Upon entering the chapel, visitors are immediately struck by the large glass facade. The building’s high, transparent walls gaze out toward the serene Redwood grove surrounding the property.

Redwood beams are used to hold geometric panes of glass in place. And local Palos Verdes stones were used to make the church’s sanctuary.

This blending of natural beauty and built space epitomizes a school of architecture known as Organic Modern, Fine said.

“It's very much the connection between indoors and outdoors,” he said. “That's kind of the beauty and the magic of the space. What Lloyd Wright created here, it does feel like it's part of nature — but also something that was created.”

Wayfarers Chapel is a popular venue for California weddings. Beach Boys singer Brian Wilson married Melinda Ledbetter there in 1995.

A famed architect’s son, famous in his own Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright is one of history’s most well known architects. But his son Lloyd Wright also has a claim to architectural fame — especially when it comes to iconic 20th century Southern California designs.

Lloyd Wright left his mark on L.A. through visually striking projects like the John Sowden House in Los Feliz (also known as the “Jaws House” for its jagged facade resembling a shark’s gaping maw).

He also designed a pyramid-shaped shell for the Hollywood Bowl in 1927, which was deemed “too modern” by management. The next year, he tried another swooping design that could be put up and taken down within a day. But it was soon replaced by the venue’s more familiar semi-circular shell.

A version of the Hollywood Bowl shell, designed by Lloyd Wright, is seen being assembled in 1928.

Lloyd Wright’s work as an independent architect continued from the 1920s through the 1960s. Wayfarer Chapel represents one of his later masterpieces, first opened to the public when he was in his early 60s. He died in 1978 at the age of 88.

The future of historic preservation in a changing L.A. climate

This isn’t the first time the chapel’s facilities have been affected by landslides. In 1995, the chapel’s original visitors center was removed due to extensive damage caused by land movement, according to the church’s website . A new visitors center opened in 2001.

An exterior view of Wayfarers Chapel, taken before its closure due to recent landslides.

But as California weather becomes more erratic in a world shaped by climate change , experts say churches and other organizations will need to prepare for more investment in preservation.

“Most places are behind the curve in terms of doing the kind of thoughtful planning about what climate change means to our historic buildings,” said Fine with the L.A. Conservancy. “How do you adapt? How do you retrofit? And how do you come up with the funding to make it happen?”

He added that Wayfarers Chapel has one clear advantage: it’s a beloved building, not just in L.A., but throughout the world.

“People know of this place,” Fine said. “So I hope people do step up to support it, because it really does need it at this point to ensure it survives.”

The Orange County Clerk-Recorder is holding special Saturday hours today for marriage services. Because it's 2-24-24.

Why it matters: Orange County Cleark Hugh Nguyen said a few months ago his office started looking into extending services on 2-24-24, because combination dates like those have proven to be very popular in the past.

The details: Old Orange County Courthouse in Santa Ana is the place to go if you and your significant other want to tie the knot today. Hours are between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

If you are seized by the spirit of love and just so happened to want to put a ring on it, stat — you may consider heading down to the Old Orange County Courthouse in Santa Ana because the county clerk-recorder is holding special hours for marriage services today between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

"I always look every year at special dates because couples love it, right? We want to make sure we make it fun and enjoyable for everybody," said Hugh Nguyen, Orange County Clerk-Recorder.

The office typically opens on Saturdays every other month. But Nguyen said a few months ago they started looking into extending services on 2-24-24, because dates like those have proven to be very popular in the past.

"12-13-14 or 2-22-22 [were] huge. Those are special dates and combinations that people feel lucky with," Nguyen said.

More than 175 appointments have been booked for today, not counting walk-ins. And when it's all said and done, Nguyen estimated that more than 200 couples could show up to tie the knot on the spot.

Nguyen said this February has been an unusually busy month his office. There was last week's Valentine's Day. Today's 2-24-24.

"Guess what next week is? Leap Day!" Nguyen said.

So far, 180 couples have signed up for that one-in-four-year opportunity to say, "I do."

Various students walk thru an outdoor brick and concrete walkway surrounded by grassy fields and trees.

Twenty thousand undergraduate student workers across all Cal State campuses have voted to unionize, forming the largest union of undergraduates in the US. More than 97% of those who voted were in favor of joining labor union SEIU.

Why it matters: Student assistants say they organized for benefits and higher pay. Most of them currently make 16 dollars an hour.

Why now: The undergraduate workers are the latest in a wave of organizing on California campuses. Earlier this month, graduate students and post-docs at Cal Tech voted to unionize.

The vote also follows a one-day faculty strike across the CSU system last month. This week, the union that represents CSU faculty approved a deal with the university.

What's next: The university said in a statement that it will start bargaining with its student workers in the near future.

Why it matters: Student assistants say they organized for benefits and higher pay. Most of them currently make $16 an hour.

Why now: The undergraduate workers are the latest in a wave of organizing on California campuses. Earlier this month, graduate students and post-docs at Cal Tech voted to unionize . And just this week, the union that represents CSU faculty approved a new deal with the university.

What's next? The university system said in a statement that it will start bargaining with its student workers "in the near future."

The L.A. Report

Today's headlines:

  • California is supplying abortion pills for free to health providers across the state.
  • LAUSD's teachers union suspends support for school board candidate Kahllid Al-Alim over anti-semitic tweets.
  • The EPA orders a Chiquita Canyon landfill to address its odor problem.

Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts to get The LA Report delivered to you twice on weekdays, with special editions on Saturday and Sunday.

Dirt, debris and liquid collect on top of a plastic tarp on a hill side. The blue sky is visible in the backdrop.

Federal authorities have ordered Chiquita Canyon landfill operators to take measures to protect health and environmental concerns arising from a heat smoldering event happening in an old part of the landfill. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants the waste management company to mitigate the impacts of the smell – described as a “sour milk rotting,” “sweet rotting fruit” and “rotten egg” smell – and to either stop or reduce the burning event.

Why it matters: Residents from Val Verde, Castaic, Live Oak and Hasley Canyon have submitted over 6800 complaints to the South Coast Air Quality Monitoring District about the smell caused by elevated levels of sulfur, specifically dimethyl sulfide and leachate, as a result of the smoldering event in the old part of the landfill. In some complaints, residents reported eye irritation, migraines and vertigo.

Why now: Thanne Berg, assistant regional counsel at the EPA, said the agency issued the order now because “the situation at the landfill was deteriorating rather than improving.”

What's next: According to Berg, the landfill operators have 30 days to come up with a master plan to stop or reduce the smoldering and reduce the offsite impacts of the reaction.

Federal authorities have ordered Chiquita Canyon landfill to fix its longstanding odor problem that's been fueled by a fire that's been smoldering deep inside it.

The EPA wants the waste management company to mitigate the affects of the smell — described as a “sour milk rotting,” “sweet rotting fruit” and “rotten egg” — and to either stop or reduce the burning event.

Why's the EPA getting involved now?

Thanne Berg, assistant regional counsel at the EPA, said the agency issued the order now because “the situation at the landfill was deteriorating rather than improving.”

“The amount of leachate it's producing has increased dramatically and the noxious odors have not been alleviated,” she said. “What the order brings is enforceable deadlines and requirements for them to meet, so that keeps them on task and on schedule.”

In response, Steve Cassulo, district manager at Chiquita Canyon Landfill, said operators have been working to address the issue with other regulatory agencies.

"We welcome the opportunity to work with the EPA as a partner with our other regulators. Chiquita takes very seriously its role in the safe operation of the landfill," Cassulo said.  

Cause and history of complaints

Residents from Val Verde, Castaic, Live Oak and Hasley Canyon have submitted more than 6,800 complaints to the South Coast Air Quality Management District about the smell caused by elevated levels of sulfur, specifically dimethyl sulfide and leachate, as a result of the smoldering burn in an old part of the landfill.

In some complaints, residents reported eye irritation, migraines and vertigo. The leachate also contains benzene , which the EPA has designated as a carcinogen. It's known to cause drowsiness and dizziness in the short term and in the long term can result in blood disorders.

Because of high temperatures in that area of the landfill, microbes have not been functioning correctly and are eating and decomposing waste at a faster rate than usual, releasing liquid and gasses, causing the odors.

According to the EPA, the exact cause of what is causing the smoldering burn is unknown.

More trouble for the landfill operators

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control issued a Prop. 65 warning, which is for when businesses expose residents to known carcinogens. In doing so, state regulators say the landfill violated multiple California Hazardous Waste Control laws, including not minimizing the release of benzene in excess amounts into the air, land and water.

According to Berg, the landfill operators have 30 days to come up with a master plan to stop or reduce the smoldering and reduce the offsite effects of the reaction. That could include covering the landfill to reduce the noxious odors and treating the leachate for benzene and properly disposing of it.

Some critics of the new MLB uniform have pointed to this photo of Los Angeles Dodgers hitter Shohei Ohtani, (left), and starting pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto, taken on Wednesday, as an example of how see-through the new pants are.

Major League Baseball players and fans alike are expressing their disappointment with new uniforms rolled out for the upcoming season.

About the uniform: The new MLB attire, known as the Nike Vapor Premier uniform, was developed over the past six years to fit better, improve mobility, manage moisture as well as be more sustainable for environment. It was designed by Nike and manufactured by Fanatics.

Why it's controversial : Among the reviews:

  • "It feels kind of like papery," Los Angeles Angels outfielder Taylor Ward told The Athletic .
  • "I know everyone hates them," Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Trea Turner told The Associated Press .
  • "The look of it is like a knockoff jersey from T.J.Maxx," said an unnamed Baltimore Orioles player, according to The Baltimore Banner .

Keep reading ... to find out why Shohei Ohtani's picture raised more questions about the new uniform pants.

Major League Baseball players and fans alike are expressing their disappointment with new uniforms rolled out for the upcoming season. "It feels kind of like papery," Los Angeles Angels outfielder Taylor Ward told The Athletic . "I know everyone hates them," Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Trea Turner told The Associated Press . "The look of it is like a knockoff jersey from T.J.Maxx," said an unnamed Baltimore Orioles player, according to The Baltimore Banner .

About the uniform

The new MLB attire, known as the Nike Vapor Premier uniform, was developed over the past six years to fit better, improve mobility, manage moisture as well as be more sustainable for environment. It was designed by Nike and manufactured by Fanatics. The sportwear was initially worn by players during last year's All-Star Game in Seattle. At the time, MLB players described the sportwear as comfortable and lightweight. But amid spring training, some players have raised concerns over the quality and design of the new uniform.

The laundry list of complaints

Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark said the main concerns appear to be about the new uniform pants.

"A lot of the rhetoric yesterday is confirmation that the pants are see-through, which is again disappointing." Clark said Thursday in Arizona.

Similar criticisms were fueled by fans after pictures were released of Los Angeles Dodgers hitter Shohei Ohtani wearing the new uniform.

This looks less like a Dodgers uniform and more like a Spirit Halloween costume of Shohei Ohtani pic.twitter.com/HoYShcCxIJ — Jordan Cicchelli 🤍 (@jordancicchelli) February 21, 2024

Some people on social media pointed out that Ohtani's jersey was clearly visible underneath his pants and complained that his pants were "transparent," "thin," and "paper mache."

"When I look at major league sports, I want to see high quality stuff. Shohei Ohtani signed a $700 million deal, and he's wearing paper mache pants," radio personality Gregg Giannotti said Thursday on his show, Boomer & Gio .

Others complained that the color of the jersey and matching pants did not always match, that the new size of the lettering on the back of jerseys were unappealing or that the uniform generally looked cheap, according to The Athletic .

What's next

In a statement, a Nike spokesperson said the company takes the concerns seriously.

"The quality and the performance of our product is of the utmost importance to us. We will continue to work with MLB, the players and our manufacturing partner to address player uniforms," the spokesperson added.

The MLB did not immediately respond to NPR's request for comment but in an interview with MLB.com published Tuesday, Stephen Roche, the vice president of MLB Authentic Collection/Global Consumer Products, said "It was a very technological approach to outfitting players."

Roche added, "Everything was performance-driven."

When asked whether most of the uniform concerns, like the see-through pants, can be fixed before Opening Day in March, MLBPA executive director Clark told reporters, "We'll have to see."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit npr.org .

Aerial view shows the ocean in the foreground with a long pier with a red-roofed building at the end. Beyond the beach you you see homes and buildings.

This much is clear: Huntington Beach voters will soon decide whether they want to require people to show ID to vote in city elections. What's less clear is whether the initiative is called Measure 1 or Measure A.

Why it matters: The March 5 primary is less than two weeks away, and campaigning is in high gear. But we can't talk over the pros and cons of a measure if we can't even agree on what it's called, right? In some places, the voter ID measure is referred to as Measure 1. In other places, Measure A.

The backstory: This confusion traces back to the different methods that cities, counties and states refer to local measures. The city gave its upcoming measures numerical designations. But, pursuant to state elections law, the Orange County Registrar of Voters must give an alphabetical designation to local measures.

What's next? You know the March 5 primary is fast approaching, and LAist has a Voter Game Plan to get you through that loooong ballot. We break it all down for Orange County voters here , and for LA voters here .

The measure on the March 5 primary ballot is referred to as Measure A on election documents. But the initiative has also been referred to as Measure 1 in other places. (Huntington Beach Mayor Gracey Van Der Mark urged residents to "Please, vote YES on Charter Amendement Measure 1" on ballot literature.)

When faced with a question like this, we at LAist did the obvious — called the Orange County Registrar of Voters, which runs local elections. Here's how it breaks down, according to Orange County elections chief Bob Page:

The city gave the upcoming measures numerical designations when the proposals were drawn up.

But, pursuant to state elections law, the Orange County Registrar of Voters must give an alphabetical designation to local measures.

Here's how the initiative reads on OCVote.gov :

A screen-grab from the OCVote.gov website shows a large letter "A" followed by the title: City of Huntington Beach, Charter Amendment Measure No. 1.

LAist had used "Measure 1" earlier in our 2024 primary election coverage. We have since updated our stories to refer to the upcoming Huntington Beach measures as Measures A, B and C.

And just a reminder: The LAist Voter Game Plan has everything voters in Orange County and in Los Angeles County need to cast their ballot on March 5.

More voter resources:

  • Will Huntington Beach Voters Have To Show ID To Vote In The Future?
  • LAist's Orange County Voter Game Plan Guide: Huntington Beach Ballot Measures
  • Huntington Beach election page — official ballot statement, impartial analysis, arguments for and against

LAist reporter Jill Replogle also contributed to this report.

2024 Primary Election In Huntington Beach: Key Dates

  • Feb. 24: Select vote centers open
  • Mar. 2: All vote centers open
  • Mar. 5: Last day of voting

To find Vote Center locations and hours and ballot dropbox locations, check the OC Registrar of Voters webpage .

For more information on voting in the 2024 Primary, check out our Orange County Voter Game Plan .

More Voter Guides

  • Orange County Board of Supervisors: The winners of Districts 1 and 3 will join a five-member board that oversees a county of about 3 million residents with an annual budget of about $9 billion.
  • Orange County Superior Court judges: There are three competitive races for the bench.

Head to LAist's OC Voter Game Plan for guides to the rest of your ballot including:

  • Measure D: Evaluating the initiative that asks Irvine voters to expand the city council and redistribute its powers.
  • Huntington Beach Measures A, B and C: A closer look at a trio of measures aiming to reshape Surf City.
  • Orange Unified: Two board members face recall
  • Orange County Board of Education: Three of five seats are up for grabs
  • Orange County State Assembly: Meet the candidates vying for these nine seats
  • Orange County State Senate: A look at the key races on the ballot
  • Prop. 1 : Here's a closer look at the proposal at the center of a debate over how to best help people struggling with mental health, drug and alcohol issues.
  • U.S. Congress: A look at the Southern California races
  • U.S. Senate: Who will replace the late Dianne Feinstein?

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Testing wastewater for coronavirus is the best metric we have to estimate how much virus is circulating. The level of coronavirus in L.A. County’s wastewater has dropped to 30% of last winter’s peak — that’s down 22% from the previous week.

All indicators trending downward: Fewer people are in the hospital with COVID-19 in L.A. County. During the week ending Feb. 17, there was an average of 376 COVID-positive hospitalized patients, a decrease from the average of 482 COVID-positive hospitalized patients for the previous week.

Deaths caused by COVID are down from a high of about nine people a day in early January to now four people each day.

What about the rest of the country? Nationally, the wastewater viral activity level for COVID-19 is high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , but is trending downward. People can still get sick as cases decrease. The virus is circulating at about the same rate as in early November.

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Health Insurance Options for Freelance Writers

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Looking for the ideal health insurance plan but dreading the process? At Find The Plan, we can pinpoint the perfect plan in less than 15 minutes, and our services are free! Our experienced team is just a click away to help in the process. Say goodbye to paperwork hassle and hello to peace of mind. Reach out now for a free consultation, and let us help guide you to the right plan.

Freelancing has become immensely popular over the last few years. It gives you the freedom to work your hours and set your schedule allowing for flexibility that a normal job does not. Freelancing gives you the leisure of working from the comfort of your own house without a boss breathing down your neck. In other words, freelancing gives you the opportunity of being your boss. Among various talents, writing can be an excellent choice if you want to become a successful freelancer. However, some of you might be hesitant to get health insurance as a freelance writer because you are not aware of the options available for freelance writers.

Fortunately, health insurance options for freelance writers are not as limited as they once were. In the US, you can find plenty of health insurance options for freelance writers that can be suitable for you and your writing career.

Following is a list of health insurance options for freelance writers for you to explore:

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National Writers Union

You can join the National Writers Union if you are a freelance writer, journalist, book author, blogger, or content writer. The National Writers Union is partnered with America Health Care and offers a variety of affordable health insurance plans for freelance writers who can get quotes from the Marketplace. This union is governed by the Affordable Care Act. You can apply for membership in this union if you have lost your health insurance in the last 60 days. Monthly dues can be as little as $12.50 per month but this amount varies based on your annual earnings.

Writers Guild of America (WGA)

The Writers Guild of America has over 20,000 members and it offers healthcare insurance to writers working in the film, television, radio, and media industries. Members of WGA can get Writers’ Guild-Industry Health Funds that cover vision, medical, prescription, hospitalization, dental, life insurance, and wellness benefits. The WGA works in cooperation with the Producers Guild and supplies pension plans to its members as well.

To become eligible for the WGA health insurance program you need to be working in the film and television industry for a specific period and must have completed a certain number of projects in the field. The initiation fee for this program is 2,500 US dollars.

Freelancers Union

Freelancers Union is a health insurance provider for education, interest, and the advocacy of freelancers. It is a non-profit labor organization that has a licensed subsidiary, called Freelancers Insurance Agency, to supply health insurance to freelance workers. It also has a contractual association with a nationally licensed insurance producer, HealthPlanService, Inc. Freelancers Insurance Agency is licensed in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Colorado, California, Georgia, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Florida, Texas, the District of Columbia, and Maryland.

You can get an average savings of 35% plus dental coverage through the Guardian. Additionally, you get health insurance coverage for medical travel through GeoBlue for the time you spend on board. You can join the Freelancers Union without any cost and get dental, vision, life, and disability insurance in addition to other benefits.

Healthcare Marketplace and Healthcare.gov

The Healthcare Marketplace is another go-to health insurance choice for a freelance writer if every other choice fails. Unfortunately, enrollment in this program only opens once a year. You can apply to the Healthcare Marketplace through Helathcre.gov when the enrollment period is active. The enrollment period is usually between the start of November of every year and the end of January of the next year.

You may be eligible to apply for enrollment outside the enrollment period in case of a special event, also known as a “qualifying event” or a “triggering event.” For example, if you are leaving your job to pursue a career in freelance writing, you may be able to enroll in an insurance plan through the Healthcare Marketplace.

The Healthcare Marketplace offers different health insurance plans based on your income and a few other factors. You can easily access and compare their plans by visiting their website and choosing the pricing that suits you best.

National Association for the Self-Employed

The National Association for the Self-Employed can be another fine choice to meet your health insurance needs as a freelance writer. The National Association for the Self-Employed was founded in 1981 and supplies joint buying power, benefits, and resources to small businesses and entrepreneurs. The National Association for the Self-Employed aims at supplying the benefits that were previously exclusive to large corporations.

The NASE is partnered with USHEALTH Group and supplies coverage for certain subsidiaries including Golden Rule, Assurant, MetLife, and others. NASE supplies Fixed Indemnity Health Insurance, comprehensive coverage, and supplemental plans. You can choose their supplemental plans to receive benefits like a physician, dental, and hospital discounts. In addition, you get support in case of disability, critical illness, accident, and life insurance. Apart from freelance writers, NASE offers its membership to veterans, students, and businesses.

Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act is an amazing health insurance choice for legal US citizens who have a low income. Also known as Obamacare, the ACA offers membership to US citizens (including legal immigrants) with low incomes, and people who are at an elevated risk of developing an illness or already have a medical condition regardless of their employment status.

Health Insurance for Freelance Writers

Following is the list of organizations supplying health insurance to writers and artists:

  • Actor’s Fund
  • Artist’s Health Insurance Resource Center
  • Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington
  • American Association of Retired People Health Care Options
  • American Society of Journalists and Authors
  • Partnership for Prescription Assistance
  • College Art Association Group Insurance Plan
  • Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
  • Editorial Freelance Association
  • SPAWN Health Plan
  • Featured Atlas
  • Working Today
  • National Writers Association Health insurance is available through Med Choice One, LLC
  • Media Bistro Avant Guild

Finding a practical health insurance option can be hectic for a freelance writer. Knowing your options and figuring out your medical requirements is a good place to start. You must explore your options in detail and choose an affordable plan that can help you save the most. That’s where Find the Plan comes in. As an insurance broker, we have access to all available plans in your area, and using our service does not cost you any added fees. Our licensed agents are here to help you in finding the best choice that fits your budget so get in touch with us today if you need assistance. We’re happy to help!

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Union Plus programs are designed for working families to save money and leverage your purchasing power. Visit the Union Plus website to learn more about available benefits.

The Black List

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The Black List is a platform for writers to showcase their work to industry professionals looking for new projects and emerging writers. WGAE members can create a free personal Writer Profile, list their material on the site at no cost, and receive a 20% discount on all site services.

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All U.S.-based* voting members are invited to receive a complimentary subscription to Variety Print Plus (print and e-edition) during Awards Season. Simply fill out the online subscription form to begin enjoying the print and digital formats of Variety. (*International members will receive an e-edition subscription.)

Entertainment Community Fund

The Entertainment Community Fund, formerly the Actors Fund

The Entertainment Community Fund is a nonprofit human services organization founded in 1882 serving all professionals in film, theater, television, music, opera, and dance through programs that address their unique and essential needs. They also offer a free healthcare clinic and provide free flu shots for industry members each fall.

Actors Federal Credit Union

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Actors Federal Credit Union is a cooperatively run nonprofit financial organization that aids the entertainment community. WGAE members are eligible to join Actors Federal Credit Union for access to financial services including auto loans, mortgages, credit cards, IRAs, checking and savings accounts, holiday club, retirement plans.

TDF: Discount Theatre Tickets

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WGAE members new to TDF are eligible for a 40% discount on their inaugural annual membership. To claim this discount, create a TDF account, and, on the next page, edit the promo code to WGA on upper-right side of the screen then tap the “Buy Now” button at the bottom of the screen. Your discount will be applied on the next page.

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Hollywood is “inherently financially unstable” for writers, survey finds.

Over 500 respondents working in TV and film screenwriting reveal how financial hardship affected their access to food before and during the 2023 strike, as well as flaws in assistance programs designed to help: "The system is not made for those in the gig economy."

By Abbey White

Abbey White

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WGA and SAG-AFTRA strike 2023 Netflix picket line

A new community survey from Humanitas is offering a first-of-its-kind look into the state of food insecurity within the TV and film writing industry.

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A window into food access (or a lack thereof) among a sampling of the Hollywood writing community, the effort was inspired by the challenging realities writers shared while applying for the nonprofit’s ongoing grocery cards program, launched during the WGA work stoppage last year. “People shared intimate details of their lives, their families’ lives, and the impact on their children,” says Michelle Franke, Humanitas’ executive director, of its Groceries for Writers program. “It started to create a larger narrative of suffering.”

Using the parameters around high, marginal, low and very low food security as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture , the community survey’s mix of closed- and open-ended questions provides qualitative and quantitative insight into the mental, physical and professional impacts of food insufficiency.

Open for anyone to take and accessible via the Humanitas website, social media and partners of the organization, the voluntary questionnaire launched on Sept. 6 — just five days before the end of the WGA work stoppage — and closed Sept. 22. It would garner 509 responses (100 film and 409 TV writers) across 17 days. 

With more than 30,000 writers comprising the Writers Guild East and West alone, Daniel Plagens, the Humanitas program manager who served as the survey’s lead writer and analyst, acknowledges that the 500-person survey is “not statistically representative” of the wider screenwriting community. But the results — which have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percent — “still signal food insecurity is an issue among this population of people.” 

The survey found that in the last year, around 51 percent of respondents could not afford to eat balanced meals. During that same period, about 42 percent of all writers said they had to choose between buying food and paying for other essentials like rent, utilities and medical bills. 

“So much of my recovery was about having food around that felt safe and accessible,” one staff writer, who identified as having an eating disorder, shared via the survey. “This financial stress around food has added a whole other layer to my recovery that I did not anticipate.”

“Administering the project, we encountered people who held the misconception that everyone working in Hollywood makes an upper-middle-class living or held cynical notions about food insecurity and poverty,” Plagens tells The Hollywood Reporter . “There is also a propensity among some people to look at data like this and mistreat it as a referendum on whether people should pursue creative fields or strike.

“Our data shows writers were facing food insecurity before the strike, that food insecurity isn’t limited to a small number of people, and, frankly, food insecurity shouldn’t be acceptable at any level,” he continues. 

The survey generally found that writers working in film and TV who identified as POC or mixed, disabled, and/or neurodivergent reported higher rates of food insecurity. Lower-level TV writers’ job performance, physical and mental well-being were reported as being significantly impacted at higher percentages than their EP and producer-level writing counterparts.

“As a feature writer, I’ve worked for dozens of financiers and studios. Only five or so of those studios have paid me, and one of them still owes me for four full years of work,” one writer told the Humanitas survey. “We aren’t paid for our services — and because we are not paid, we cannot put food on the table.”

According to producer and EP-level TV writing respondents, along with feature writers making a living through writing, today’s food insecurity was also present in their early careers. One reported relying “on the grace of others” to share meals, while others — to avoid spending money on groceries — ate leftover food from the work kitchen that was going to be thrown away. Those kinds of conditions haven’t disappeared for everyone, either, despite moving into upper-level positions. One animation writer, who works “consistently for Disney,” revealed they “live on one meal a day.” 

Writers told Humanitas their ability to afford food was impacted by higher costs of living in industry hubs like L.A. and New York, but also inflation in cities between the coasts. To cope both before and during the 2023 writers strike, they’ve turned to inexpensive and unhealthy foods, using food assistance programs, eating smaller portions, receiving help from family, skipping meals, visiting food banks or “lots of credit card debt,” as one anonymized writer noted. 

“I know several creatives who are on food assistance programs and more who want to be, but it’s so difficult to qualify and prove need because of how our income looks (enormous at some moments, zero at others),” a staff writer said. “Same for unemployment because of the contract nature of some jobs. The system is not made for those in the gig economy.”

Some scribes expressed that through pandemic-related unemployment policy, they were able to use EBT to supplement their grocery budget, even though one support staffer noted “it can be challenging to get the food you need” with dietary restrictions. But many of those who were able to qualify saw their aid end after those policies expired.

Franke and Plagens both say that in the wake of the new WGA contract , they hope their survey findings can be used as a tool to address food insecurity among screenwriters now or in future union negotiations, as “nonprofits can’t continue to shoulder” what can be addressed by the industry itself, according to Franke. 

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