LONG BEACH — The City Council has agreed to provide about $700,000 a year to local social service agencies, a move that will make the city an important source of funds to charities for the first time since Proposition 13 passed in 1978.
The council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a plan to have a citizens committee recommend how the money should be divided among nonprofit groups in Long Beach.
"We are looking at filling the needs that the county and state aren't handling," Councilman Thomas Clark said in an interview after the vote. "This is a step to fill voids that are not being served."
Councilman Marc Wilder called the plan a "more comprehensive approach" to providing funds to private social service agencies that have traditionally depended on public donations or grants from the state and federal governments.
"I think providing social services is going to be one of the major functions of the city in the 1990s," Wilder said, explaining that there likely will continue to be unmet needs in the city's large immigrant population. "This program is setting the stage for how Long Beach is going to address this."
Leaders of social service agencies said they were pleased by the council's decision. "I think it is something very appropriate for the city to do," said Claudia Harden, executive director of Cedar House, a child abuse treatment and prevention program.
Approval of the plan ends more than a year of meetings and reviews, which included an in-depth study of the city's social service network by the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C., research group. That study found that Long Beach's anti-poverty programs fail to meet needs in several areas but attributed the inadequacy in part to the decline in federal and state funding.
In the 1970s, the city generally spent about $150,000 a year for various community programs. Since the passage of Proposition 13, the state ballot measure that slashed property taxes, the city has dramatically limited its own funding of many private social service agencies. With the council's decision Tuesday, however, the city should once again become a source of money for such groups.
Purchase by Hospitals
The social service funds will come from the multimillion-dollar sale of city-owned land in 1983 to three local hospitals that wanted to expand their operations. The $6.65 million made from the land sale accrued more than $2 million in interest.
That $2 million will be spent during the coming year for capital improvements to the city's downtown health center on Pine Avenue. Built in 1951, the 30,000-square-foot building was designed for 18,000 patient visits a year. The health center now handles about 120,000 patient visits annually, city officials say.
The $6.65 million will remain as an endowment, with the $700,000 in anticipated annual interest going to fund social service needs.
To apply for the money, agencies will be required to provide written proposals outlining how the funds will be used. Those proposals will be reviewed by a citizens committee that will then forward its recommendations to the council for final approval.
The council has not decided who will make up the advisory body. Officials say either a new committee will be formed or the existing Board of Health will be expanded and given the additional duties of reviewing applicants.
J. Edward Tewes, assistant city manager, said social service agencies will probably be able to begin applying for the program by the start of 1986. Tewes said he expects the first grants to be made before the fiscal year in June.
Under the plan approved Tuesday by the council, certain types of agencies will have a better chance of receiving funding than others.
Highest Priority Groups
For example, social service agencies in need of funding for child day-care, subsidized homemaker assistance, recreation or cultural activities for special groups, crisis hot lines or other types of counseling and education have the highest priority under the plan. Those services are eligible for 60% of the $700,000 to be doled out each year.