Article and Photos By DOUGLAS W. MOTLEY – Senior Writer
The storm response event held last Saturday and Sunday, March 25 and 26, at Crestline’s Valley of Enchantment Elementary School lured hundreds of storm-weary local residents to the school’s multi-purpose room to learn from county, state and federal agency officials what type of assistance is available to them following the recent blizzard and series of subsequent snowstorms that wreaked havoc throughout the mountaintop communities over the past four weeks.
According to Justine Rodriguez, public information officer for the Sacramento-based Office of Emergency Services, officials and volunteers from 22 county, state and federal agencies explained the various programs that offer assistance to those in need of help. “We are all working together to provide resources to help people recover from these unprecedented storms,” she said.
Team Rubicon, which is based in Los Angeles, came to Running Springs last week, where their volunteers helped with snow and debris removal for those that needed it and staged a free food distribution event at Charles Hoffman Elementary School, said Orange County Membership Coordinator Michelle Davies.
Sonia Miranda, the Veterans Services director for Congressman Jay Obernolte’s Hesperia office, explained that the 23rd District congressman had convinced President Biden to declare the mountaintop communities, as well as San Bernardino, Los Angeles and Kern counties, a federal disaster area, which gives taxpayers residing in those areas the option of claiming disaster-related casualty losses on their federal income tax returns. In addition, said Davies, affected individuals and businesses have the opportunity to delay filing their federal income tax forms until Oct. 16.
The San Bernardino County Auditor-Controller/Treasurer/Tax Collector’s office is offering property tax relief to property owners affected by the February 2023 blizzard. To qualify for the property tax relief program through a reassessment, property owners must file a damage assessment application with the County Assessor within 12 months from the date of damage or destruction. The loss estimate must be at least $10,000 of current market value to qualify the property for relief. The damage assessment application form is available online at https://arc.sbcounty.gov/arc-storm-response-resources/.
The San Bernardino County Department of Public Health is also offering transitional assistance through its CalWorks, CalFresh/SNAP (food stamps), Medi-Cal and Homeless Assistance programs.
CalWorks is a human services program that provides cash aid and services to eligible needy California families. The program is operated locally by county welfare departments. In San Bernardino County this is known as the Transitional Assistance Department (TAD). Families that apply and qualify for aid, receive money each month to pay for housing, food and other necessary expenses.
CalFresh is a benefit program that helps low-income individuals and families buy the food they need with an electronic card that is used like an ATM or bank card to buy food at most grocery stores.
Medi-Cal provides comprehensive health benefits by offering outpatient and emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health services, dental care and prescription medication.
San Bernardino County’s snow removal program offers reimbursement to mountain residents who paid someone to remove snow from their property or who bought snow removal equipment such as shovels or a snowblower. Up to $500 in reimbursement is available. However, the property owner must provide a receipt for any service or snow removal equipment that was purchased, as well as before and after photos.
Other participating agencies and businesses offering emergency services include the county’s Community Action Partnership, which can aid with utility payments and temporary motel lodging for families that have been displaced; Inland Counties Legal Services for intervention in tenant-landlord issues; Red Cross for health-related issues; and United Way, which can help with feeding, clothing, meals and housing assistance.
Yolette Naranjo, a front counter technician at the Office of the County Fire Marshal, told The Alpine Mountaineer, “We can assist with community safety issues, such as removing tree limbs and trees that have fallen onto homes, and removal of household hazardous waste. We also have CARE Dogs for emotional support.”
The county Land Use Services Department can provide inspections and assessments for damaged buildings and building permits for reconstruction of damaged buildings. The county’s Public Works Department was there to provide information on how property owners can prepare for extreme storm events.
Representatives from the Department of Aging and Adult Services handed out information on available counseling and resources for seniors 60 and older to help disabled individuals meet basic needs and to remain safely in their home.
State agencies attending last weekend’s event at Valley of Enchantment Elementary School included the Office of Emergency Services, Contractors State License Board, Department of Insurance, Department of Motor Vehicles, Employment Development Department and Franchise Tax Board.
A similar event held last weekend at Charles Hoffman Elementary School in Running Springs reportedly drew fewer local residents. One Running Springs resident speculated that the Crestline event attracted more people because Crestline was more severely impacted by the late February blizzard and subsequent atmospheric river storms.