Three California assembly members on Tuesday introduced a newly minted bill which, if it becomes law, would bring financial assistance to storm and flood victims who are ineligible for state and federal assistance.
Assembly Bill 513, also known as the California Individual Assistance Act, was authored by Assembly members Freddie Rodriguez and Robert Rivas, and co-sponsored by Assemblywoman Esmeralda Soria.
Introduced April 10, the bill aims to provide relief to residents who are ineligible for government assistance because of their immigration status, a group made up largely of farmworkers.
“At the end of the day, these workers are essential workers as we designated during Covid, and so we should be treating them as such,” Soria said during a brief press conference.
The bill on Monday passed unanimously out of the Assembly Committee on Emergency Management, the first step in a multi-week process that will likely include several subcommittees in both Assembly and Senate.
It has been given an urgency clause, however, meaning it would take effect soon after Gov. Gavin Newson signs it, as opposed to Jan. 1 of the following year.
If approved, it would be administered by the California Office of Emergency Services.
That agency would provide funds to local agencies and nonprofits for repairs that are not covered by insurance or by governmental financial assistance programs.
Rodriguez said that aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) remains out of reach for many of the people affected by the series of winter storms and flooding.
“All too often, FEMA and CAL OES have been unable to provide assistance to the most vulnerable communities when the disaster survivors have few paths to recovery,” he said.
In a letter to Sen. Alex Padilla and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a group of elected and nonprofit leaders called the situation in Pajaro Valley a “humanitarian crisis” and asked for the lawmakers’ help in keeping the residents and businesses afloat.
An estimated 1,500 families are out of work because of damage to local fields. According to the letter, many of these people are now homeless because of the recent flooding.
Rivas said the proposed law would give the state “another tool” in helping people affected by natural disasters.
“A tool for the state to use to assist communities that are devastated by major disaster events like flooding, wildfires and many others,” he said.
The bill would be retroactive to 2022 disasters, including the Dec, 20 6.4-magnitude earthquake in Humboldt County, and storms from Dec. 27-Jan. 31.
The legislation is all the more important, Rivas said, as climate change is expected to bring increasing numbers of natural disasters.
“It’s clear that we must do everything in our power here in California, at the state level, at the local level, to help affected communities recover and rebuild,” Rivas said.