PASADENA, Calif. -- Six months after deadly firestorms ravaged sections of Southern California, federal and state officials have approved more than $317 million to help residents, business owners, local government agencies and non-profit organizations recover from the wildfires and prepare for future disasters.
To date, 40,794 residents and business owners have registered for aid since the fires swept through Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura counties. The total number of applicants includes those directly affected by the fires as well as those whose property was damaged by the Christmas Day storms. Eligibility for storm assistance is based on whether mudflows, debris flows and flooding that caused the damage was directly related to wildfires stripping vegetation from the surrounding watershed in designated areas of San Bernardino County.
The deadline for fire victims to apply was Jan. 9; those who suffered losses because of fire-related mudflows and flooding had until March 14, 2004 to register.
"Even though many of the families and individuals who were affected by the wildfires have been assisted, money continues to flow into the appropriate agencies and local governments that incurred costs for the fires," said William Carwile, III, federal coordinating officer for the fires.
The growing amount of disaster funding approved to date comes from several federal and state agencies, among them the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (OES), the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the California Department of Social Services (DSS).
Federal and state disaster assistance covers basic needs only and will not normally compensate for an individual's entire loss. For applicants and business owners who have insurance, federal and state programs may help pay for basic needs not covered by an insurance policy.
"The recovery is progressing, but we still have work to do," said Deputy State Coordinating Officer Charles Wynne. "State and federal agencies have worked hard to ensure that individuals, families and business owners have received the assistance they are eligible for. Our focus now is to see that local and state agencies, special districts and eligible private nonprofits receive reimbursement of their eligible response costs and for the repair and restoration of damaged facilities."
Following is a summary of federal and state disaster assistance:
Individuals & Households Program - FEMA has approved more than $32.9 million in grants for temporary housing, minor home repairs, personal property loss and other needs such as medical, dental or transportation expenses, crisis counseling, disaster legal assistance and disaster unemployment assistance.
Disaster loans - The SBA approved almost $170 million in low-interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters and business owners.
Supplemental Assistance - The California Department of Social Services approved and provided 324 State Supplemental Grants totaling more than $1.4 million. The grants go to disaster victims who already received the $25,600 maximum allowed by FEMA but still had losses not covered by insurance or other programs.
Hazard Mitigation - FEMA will provide an estimated $9.5 million to the state to distribute for projects that will reduce or eliminate future disaster damages. Under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), state and local agencies and eligible non-profit organizations may submit proposals to the state for consideration under their established priorities.