Residents complain of delays and confusion in reimbursing the costs of the Dominguez chain • Long Beach Post News

Earlier this month, he asked for help from the county in moving, but never received any help. Taylor, who suffers from bronchitis and heart problems, said the stench – likely the result of a warehouse fire that spat debris and chemicals into the canal – caused constant headaches and nausea .

“I feel neglected,” said Taylor, a Carson resident.

The rotten egg smell from the canal has now subsided, but county officials are still processing hundreds of residents’ claims for relocation costs to hotel rooms outside the area. The nearly two-month ordeal has also sparked lawsuits against Los Angeles County and companies that may be responsible – an allegation the county is still investigating.

County officials, meanwhile, said it typically takes about three weeks for residents to receive a refund once they submit receipts and proof of residency, with priority given to those living the longest. near the canal, which runs along West Long Beach, Carson, Wilmington and other communities to the north. The area with the greatest impact was Carson near South Avalon Boulevard, near the 405 highway exit, authorities said.

County officials said more than 3,000 households near the Dominguez Canal had received relocation assistance. Many others, like Taylor, say they never got the help they asked for.

County officials said they couldn’t comment on specific cases, but added that many complaints were still being processed.

The Dominguez Canal near the 405 highway exit on South Avalon Boulevard and East Dominguez Street on Thursday October 14, 2021. Photo by Crystal Niebla.

“It shouldn’t have been that difficult”

Residents started reporting the stench on October 3, and the county launched its relocation reimbursement program on October 12. It has so far spent over $ 1.5 million paying for hotel rooms and issued $ 500,000 in direct payments to reimburse residents..

County officials said they received nearly 30,000 requests for moving assistance, as well as payment for air filters and air purifiers. Of those, more than 4,000 claimants provided receipts and supporting documents for the reimbursement, County spokesman Kerjon Lee said in an email.

Lee added that the county’s public works department has reassigned staff “to ensure reimbursement claims are processed as they are submitted.”

The town of Carson also provided vouchers to about 300 people who could not pay up front and were waiting to be reimbursed.

The county, however, has been criticized for delays in processing those requests, as well as confusing rule changes.

The relocation request was supposed to be straightforward – and that was for many residents who were relocated or reimbursed: after residents filled out an online form, they had to wait to receive a tracking number from the county, and then the county staff contacted them to reserve a room.

Dennis Taylor, 60, leans over a wall before being handed his cane on a sidewalk on Del Amo and Avalon Boulevard on Tuesday, November 23, 2021. Taylor, who lives less than two miles from the Dominguez Canal, said that after being exposed to high levels of hydrogen sulfide, he experienced difficulty breathing, headaches, dizziness and nausea. Photo by Crystal Niebla.

People who called 211 for help, as advised by the county, were then either directed to an online form or helped to complete it, Lee said.

But for weeks, Long Beach resident Justine Barron did not receive a tracking number. She said she didn’t find out she needed it until she spoke with a county official at a Dominguez Channel resource site at the Carson Community Center.

Barron, 47, believed she was rejected because she lived in Long Beach, despite a disability, mast cell disease, which makes her sensitive to toxins in the air and, if triggered, causes chronic migraines and seizures.

Barron, who said she suffered from chronic migraines and seizures, was ultimately approved – though still awaiting payment – for her hotel stays after pleading for weeks. Barron said she spent around $ 4,000 on hotels, not including food delivery costs since Barron was disabled.

“I pushed hard for weeks and was ignored and finally broke through,” she said. “I’m grateful that I finally got some help, but it shouldn’t have been that difficult. “

Many residents said they were confused by the process. A Facebook group Trained to Help Unanswered Questions has over 3,500 members, many of whom express their frustrations and ask for help.

Public Works, for example, has updated its online reimbursement form with an extended repayment schedule date without updating its Dominguez Canal emergency landing page.

County officials have also told residents in virtual town hall meetings on the Dominguez Channel to ignore the end date of the written reimbursement program, although they have not made it widely public. Residents said the timelines overall continued to change.

Carson resident Erica Terrell, 33, said she was so anxious about where she and her baby would sleep next week that she would call the county helpline, 211, every day.

Week to week, she said the county changed the form allowing her and her newborn baby to live in one hotel, to new rules that would have her share a hotel room with her roommate. and her child because they were one household instead. to have two families in two separate rooms.

“I was constantly receiving inconsistent information,” she said.

Now that the county has notified relocated residents that its repayment program, which includes relocation assistance, will end on November 26, the day after Thanksgiving, residents like Brandi Murdock, who left the state for the holidays, were caught off guard. Murdock, 40, said hotel staff told her she had until November 28.

“It’s a lot of pressure to put on people the day after vacation,” said Murdock.

A screenshot of a city hall presentation of a map showing those who have asked for help relocating to hotels or air purifiers.

Clean air, but a battered community

Air monitoring levels have shown a steady decline in hydrogen sulfide levels, almost all below state acceptable levels of 30 parts per billion, with the exception of one monitor of air at 213th and Chico streets.

In the past eight days, air monitoring data show these levels peaked on November 15 at 87.98 ppb on 213th and Chico streets. On Monday, November 22, levels peaked at 4.29 parts per billion, or ppb.

At its global peak on October 17, the South Coast Air Quality Management District recorded levels near 7,000 ppb.

Since the smell started, the South Coast AQMD has received more than 4,500 complaints from Carson and surrounding communities like Gardena, Long Beach, Redondo Beach, Torrance, Wilmington and other parts of LA County.

As for Barron, the help the county offered ultimately came too late to save him from traumatic symptoms.

Still not feeling safe with the air quality, Barron moved on Saturday and will stay in a hotel and later in an Airbnb for another two weeks before finding a home in Florida where his father lives. At least there she will have more support with her family, she said.

County says displaced Carson residents should prepare to return home, but some say Dominguez Canal is still making them sick

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