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Quake Help

November 23, 1987

The package of aid to the Oct. 1 earthquake victims passed by the Legislature and expected to be signed by the governor will certainly be of much help to many of those who suffered severe losses. Much of your editorial ("Welcome Relief," Nov. 12) was devoted to warnings about rip-offs and abuses in the administration of the various loan and grant programs.

Unfortunately, the experience in the flood relief program several years ago was that many who administered that program were more concerned about not spending funds than about aiding those in desperate need. Large numbers of people, especially those who were low-income renters, fell through the cracks and disappeared. I would hope that this doesn't occur again in Southern California, but I believe that it is likely.

A case in point are the thousands of renters in the City of Los Angeles who found themselves homeless as a result of the earthquake. According to the city, there are over 5,000 of these folks and 75% have incomes under $10,000 per year. Many of these households received a couple of hundred dollars in aid plus one or two months rent for relocation housing. The rent in the relocation units is much higher than what was paid before.

This is happening despite federal law permitting up to one year of housing assistance and the Individual and Family Grant Program that permits up to $5,000 for necessary expenses or serious needs resulting from the disaster. Why aren't dislocated disaster victims routinely advised fully of their rights and benefits?

In this regard, the grant funds provided in the state package could have had a more flexible application and could have been used to really complement the federal program where it is lacking, i.e., for significant relocation costs.

Disasters by their very nature are chaotic. I hope we can learn from past errors and problems and find ways to help those with the least resources to recover.

WILLIAM POWERS

Advocate

Western Center on Law and Poverty

Sacramento

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