Earthquake relief workers who aid the elderly were jubilant Thursday after learning that a $7-million federal grant is on the way to Southern California to keep alive financially strapped programs for senior citizens victimized by the Northridge temblor.
"It's wonderful," said Lynn Bayer, director of the Los Angeles County Agency on Aging. "This is the first time that we've had (earthquake relief) money that's specifically designated for the elderly."
The federal money comes just in time, Bayer said, and will allow relief agencies to pay for services already delivered and to continue programs until June 30, 1995.
Since the devastating Jan. 17 quake, programs administered by public and private agencies have helped about 25,000 senior citizens.
"We've been telling our projects to hold on because the money is coming," she said. "But we've been slowing down a little, fearing the money wouldn't come.
"It will allow us to go forward with some confidence," Bayer added, "because we haven't been doing really intense outreach work for fear that we would find more needs than we could ever fill."
Relief programs for the elderly include cleanup work, relocation, aid in filing federal aid forms and counseling. Day care and respite for families with elderly parents are also available.
The grant was announced by U.S. Assistant Secretary for Aging Fernando Torres-Gil during a City Hall news conference hosted by Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan. Robert Martinez, head of the California Department of Aging, also attended.
"Older persons are too easily overlooked," Torres-Gil said, "and their needs tend to take more work and can last much longer because they are the most vulnerable of our citizens during times of earthquakes and other disasters."
The money, granted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is expected to be available within 10 days and is earmarked for the aid of elderly quake victims in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
In all, the planned year and a half of relief work for senior citizens is expected to cost $9 million, most of which will be covered by the grant.
Ventura County is to get 9% of the grant, Bayer said. The rest will be divided between Los Angeles County and the city of Los Angeles. The county will receive 35% and the city, where most of the quake damage occurred, will get 65%.
The grant money will help relief workers find housing for senior citizens who are trying to return to the hard-hit San Fernando Valley, according to Ann Smith, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Aging.