The San Benito County Board of Supervisors on Feb. 21 unanimously approved an expenditure of $523,418 out of the General Fund for housing and food assistance for 15 displaced families from the Lovers Lane area that were affected by the January floods and had to relocate to the Migrant Center.
The funds will pay for RV trailers to house the families that include nearly 50 members for up to six months. Assistance to relocate them to rental housing is also included.
In addition, $50,000 is included as a grant to the Community FoodBank of San Benito County to provide food to the families.
Enrique Arreola, deputy director of the county’s Health and Human Services Department, said although the families are receiving ongoing services and support, they have expressed that securing housing is their first priority. He said most have said they may not be able to return to their houses due to the extensive damage.
There are now four RV trailers located at the Migrant Center. Arreola said he hopes the 11 new RV trailers will arrive next week. This would give enough time to install sewer, water and electrical hookups so the families can move into them rather than having to leave the Migrant Center. Originally, they would have had to do so by Feb. 28, but that date has been extended to March 31, he said.
Arreola said 15 of the RV trailers will house families that include nearly 50 people. An additional trailer will remain empty, to be used for COVID isolation purposes. He said he did not know how other residents of Lovers Lane who suffered losses were going to be helped.
While the supervisors agreed there was a need to support the families for a minimum of six months, it won’t cover damage or loss of homes, said Supervisor Bea Gonzalez.
“I’m still concerned about the residents out there whose homeowner insurance won’t cover flood situations,” she said. “What is the county going to do for those individuals? Right now, there’s no answers.”
Gonzalez said the board discussed priorities concerning emergency responses during its annual retreat but did not come up with any approaches to meeting emergency needs.
“I anticipate the meeting on the 28th is going to be very heated because residents will be out in numbers wanting to know what the county is going to do for them,” she said. “But what about the homeowners out there that are basically SOL? What are we doing for them? It’s frustrating for me because the county isn’t listening to me and the concerns of the residents.”
Supervisor Dom Zanger, whose district includes the Lovers Lane area, said of the decision to approve the $534,000 budget, “It was an obvious decision. Sometimes disaster strikes and our residents need help and we need to help them if we can.”
Supervisor Kollin Kosmicki said the county was doing the right thing by assisting families in need of housing after the January storms.
“The families will have housing for up to six months, and the county will then use the purchased RVs as much-needed transitional housing for homeless residents,” he said. “It’s an appropriate use of emergency funds and shows this county board will stand by residents in times of need.”
Supervisor Angela Curro and Chair Mindy Sotelo sent a joint statement covering much of the same points but added: “These are the first steps in addressing the recovery process. Life safety is our top priority. Roads and bridge repairs continue to be a board priority, especially during the recovery period. Staff is working diligently with FEMA and state agencies to address the current recovery.”
The breakdown of the assistance budget includes:
- $375,918 for 11 RV trailers with an average cost of $34,174
- $40,000 to connect sewer, water, electrical
- $5,000 delivery fees or approximately $500 for each
- $4,500 monthly maintenance over six months
- $10,000 for staff time to monitor RVs, refill propane tanks
- $22,500 for first month rental assistance once they leave the migrant center
- $15,000 for security deposits
- $50,000 food bank grant to assist the 15 families
Related BenitoLink stories:
Siblings defied roadblock to save parents and animals in Lovers Lane flood | BenitoLink
Neighbors helping neighbors along Lovers Lane | BenitoLink
Flood victims share stories, ask San Benito County agencies for help | BenitoLink
San Benito County farmer struggles after flooding | BenitoLink
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