LONG BEACH — After eight years of urging social service groups to do more with less, the City Council Tuesday awarded $539,000 in 17 grants to local organizations that will help disabled persons, immigrants, the poor and the elderly, and allow mothers to work their way off welfare.
The council, which has contributed to few non-governmental social programs since property taxes were slashed by Proposition 13 in 1978, voted unanimously to raise such city donations to the $750,000 level of eight years ago. City spending for social services peaked in the mid-1970s at about $1.5 million, officials said.
The city is attempting to fill a gap in services that has been exacerbated by sharp cuts in state and federal funds, said Mayor Ernie Kell.
"I think this is a wonderful step in the right direction. . . . But there's kind of a bottomless well (of need) out there," he said.
Several grant applicants, including two who received no money, said in interviews that they were relieved that the city has decided to make a larger financial commitment to the area's needy.
Assistance for Families
A third of the money, $173,000, will be spent on child care for low-income or welfare parents who want job training or employment; about $130,000 will provide in-home care to elderly and disabled persons, and about $86,500 will go to counseling and self-help groups such as the Rape Crisis Hot Line and child-abuse programs.
A Cambodian translator program will receive about $50,000, hospice care for the terminally ill $31,500, emergency housing $25,000 and $43,250 will pay for expanded programs for senior citizens and the disabled.
The awards, however, prompted a strong complaint Tuesday from the National Council on Alcoholism of Long Beach. "I'm shocked that none of these awards addresses substance abuse in a community where it's so overwhelming a problem," said Billye Lightner-Hernandez, executive director.
The alcoholism council proposed a $92,175 day-care program for alcoholic women, with care for the women's children at the same treatment center.
Robert Ward, this area's representative on the Los Angeles County Commission on Alcoholism, told the City Council he was also dismayed that alcohol and drug abuse was passed over for awards.
In response, representatives from the city Board of Health and Human Services said substance abuse has been addressed indirectly in a number of programs that were funded. And City Manager John Dever said the city already spends more than $1 million a year on substance abuse through the Health Department.
"I can think of a lot of groups I would like to have seen get money," added Kell. "We're always going to have people coming in and saying their proposal is the best."
The council--armed with a priority list from an in-depth study of social service needs by the Urban Institute research group of Washington, D.C.--agreed in November to use about $6.65 million from land sales to hospitals to set up an endowment for social programs. That fund will yield between $600,000 and $700,000 a year, depending on interest rates, city officials said.
By late April, the city's Board of Health and Human Services had received 64 applications for $2.7 million in grants. The board then heard brief presentations from 44 applicants who qualified for consideration and recommended the 17 awards totaling $539,405. Another $90,000 was left in a reserve to supplement the 17 awards and to be used in emergency requests.
Fourteen of the 27 unsuccessful applicants filed appeals, but only six appeared for a hearing 10 days ago. Those six were Catholic Social Service, Public Corporation for the Arts, Family Shelter for the Homeless, Interfaith Action for Aging, and Federation of Filipino-American Assns., Inc., and Clinic Project Best at California State University, Long Beach.
While some dispute has arisen, Kell said there has been "a minimum of sour grapes" from unsuccessful applicants. Indeed, some applicants, though disappointed in not receiving awards, said they had no complaints about the selection process.
'We Were Treated Fairly'
Richard Langevin, executive director of Catholic Social Service in Long Beach, said his requests for funds for a family shelter and to assist senior citizens in their homes were denied. "But we feel we were treated very fairly," he said. "We need to do a little better with our homework. Do a little bit more politicking."
Probably the most successful applicant was United Cambodian Community Inc., which received grants totaling $107,708 for child-care and translation services.
"The city is starting to respond to the need of a new community," said Than Pok, the group's executive director. "We have been here for a long time, but this is the first time the city has provided this kind of funding."
There was some disappointment, however, even among some agencies that received awards.