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L.A. Councilman Seeks to Reward Telecommuting, Working at Home

Reporter Roundup is a collaboration between PBS SoCal/KCET and KPCC/LAist to bring you the biggest headlines M-F about COVID-19. Watch the May 11 episode here.

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Councilman David Ryu introduced a motion today that would create incentives for businesses and government officials to work from home, which could help Los Angeles reduce its greenhouse gasses.

The motion, which cites health and economic costs of air pollution caused by vehicles, seeks ways for the public and private sectors to adopt remote work, telecommuting and staggered work-day programs, which have been practiced widespread since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Los Angeles has learned a lot since the start of the coronavirus pandemic," Ryu said. "... We can learn to live without dangerous air pollution and standstill traffic. Air pollution has been responsible for far too much illness and death in our city, especially among communities of color."

The motion instructs city departments and agencies to report back on the health and economic costs related to unhealthy levels of smog, carbon monoxide and fine particulate matter, also known as PM2.5, the most unhealthy type of particulate matter, according to Ryu's office.

Los Angeles had 153 days of unhealthy PM2.5 levels last year and also leads the Southern California region in respiratory-related hospital admissions, Ryu said.

"We can build a healthier Los Angeles that tackles the issue of climate change, and it starts with rethinking how we commute and how we work," Ryu said.

Citing Physicians for Social Responsibility, Ryu's office said air pollution-related illness costs Los Angeles roughly $22 billion a year.

The motion also seeks a cost comparison on telecommuting versus traditional work settings, including the cost of renting office space, furniture and utilities. The motion seeks financial and tax relief options to incentivize private industries to adopt flexible work schedules and increase telecommuting options.

A severe drop in car travel since the city issued the Safer at Home order has significantly reduced air pollution in Los Angeles, Ryu said. A recent study from UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability found a 20% improvement in air quality in Southern California, and statewide traffic reductions of 80% since the Safer at Home order took effect.

Ryu's motion will first be heard by the City Council's Energy, Climate Change and Environmental Justice Committee.

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