Gov. George Deukmejian on Saturday announced the signing of $91 million in emergency disaster relief legislation for victims of October's earthquakes in Southern California.
The package of six bills was approved on overwhelming bipartisan votes at a special two-day session of the Legislature last week and took effect immediately upon the governor's signature.
While the hardest-hit quake victims in Los Angeles and Orange counties will be the primary beneficiaries of the financial relief program, northern and central Californians whose property was damaged by wildfire in September also will receive tax breaks to ease their burdens.
The state funds, aimed at aiding people who ordinarily would not qualify for government assistance under existing state and federal programs, will be in addition to about $50 million provided by the federal government.
Essentially, the newly enacted Emergency Relief Act of 1987, which will draw from Deukmejian's fiercely protected budget reserve for unexpected emergencies, will provide:
- Grants of up to $10,000 to qualified homeowners, renters and small businesses. This will be in addition to the maximum $5,000 grants made available by the federal government and administered by the state Department of Social Services. The grants may be used to obtain clothing, furnishings, appliances, medical and dental services, public transportation and to pay funeral expenses.
- 3% homeowner loans up to $20,000--more if there are special needs--whose repayment will be delayed until the property is sold. When the loan is made, the state will file a lien against the property.
- An allocation of $46.5 million to local governments and schools for repair of public works and clean up operations.
- Low-interest loans totaling $7.5 million for the rehabilitation of rental units intended for occupancy by low-income tenants. In addition, a qualified renter family displaced by the Oct. 1 quake or the Oct. 4 major aftershock can receive a $1,000 grant for living expenses while their dwelling is repaired.
- Postponement of the Dec. 10 installment of homeowner and other property tax payments until April 10 for those suffering quake damage. County supervisors in quake- and fire-damaged areas could further defer payment until Dec. 10, 1988, when both payments would be due. Also, income taxpayers who itemize their deductions could carry their losses forward over the next five years.
- $2.5 million for rehabilitation of structures owned by such nonprofit humanitarian organizations as the Red Cross and YMCA in hard-hit Whittier.
- Allocation of $15.3 million to the California State University system and the community colleges for rehabilitation of damaged facilities. California State University, Los Angeles was especially hard hit.
Critics of the legislation contended that it will fall far short of paying for all the damage when the final price tag is calculated. However, the legislation is open-ended, meaning that all costs eligible for payment will be met over the next several years, even if they rise above $91 million.
Deukmejian announced the signing of the bills in his regular weekly radio address in which he stressed, again, the need to set aside budget reserves for unforeseen economic emergencies.
He said he had "protected that reserve" by using his veto power to reject spending bills he considered unnecessary. "I will continue to protect our reserve, even if it means that I must continue to use my veto authority to reduce excess spending," Deukmejian said.