Supervisors of Riverside and San Bernardino counties held special meetings Thursday to coordinate their responses to Hurricane Katrina and accommodate the trickle of evacuees arriving daily.
San Bernardino County supervisors declared a local emergency to expedite the availability of county services for hurricane victims, such as easing eligibility requirements for food stamps. The board also passed a resolution that would allow county employees who volunteer for relief efforts to continue receiving regular salaries for up to four weeks, said county spokesman David Wert.
At least 50 evacuees have reached San Bernardino County over the last week, according to Red Cross officials.
Churches are serving dozens more hurricane evacuees, Wert said.
Loveland Church in Ontario is working with other Southland churches to bring an estimated 5,000 evacuees from Texas; about 1,000 will stay in host homes in San Bernardino County, said Pastor Hugh Hairston.
About 150 evacuees were expected to reach Riverside County on Thursday from Shreveport, La., and shelters in New Mexico, bringing the county total to nearly 300, said Mary Moreland, director of the county Office of Emergency Services.
County agencies have set up a "one-stop" assistance center in Riverside to help evacuees with medical screening, shelter, job placement, child care and other services.
Most of the new arrivals are coming in small groups on their own, seeking family or friends in the area, Moreland said. Many of the survivors are receiving hotel vouchers, she said.
"These people really are in dire straits," Pamela Anderson, chief executive of the American Red Cross' Riverside County chapter, told Riverside County supervisors Thursday.
The county can accommodate as many as 400 evacuees at a March Air Reserve Base hangar for up to 90 days, Moreland said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency hasn't notified officials in either county of a mass relocation of evacuees, she said.
Officials anticipate assisting evacuees for weeks, said Marion Ashley, Riverside County Board of Supervisors chairman.
The supervisors approved a measure that would provide up to $250,000 for relief efforts and will be voted on Tuesday.
Local officials urge evacuees to call (800) 621-FEMA to register for assistance. Volunteers can call Riverside County Red Cross at (951) 656-4218 or (760) 773-9105, or Inland Empire Red Cross at (909) 888-1481 for information on how to help.