SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A month after three California counties endured the most destructive, deadliest wildfires on record, federal and state agencies have provided more than $180 million in grants and loans to assist in recovery.
In response to a disaster declaration signed by President Trump on Nov. 12, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) joined its federal and state partners in supporting survivor recovery in Butte, Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
Dollars and Cents
In the first 30 days since the declaration, FEMA has approved:
- More than $27.7 million in Housing Assistance grants for home repair or replacement and rental expenses.
- More than $13.1 million in Other Needs Assistance grants for repair or replacement of personal property, vehicle repair or replacement, moving expenses and other disaster-related needs.
In addition, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has approved more than $140 million in low-interest disaster loans to homeowners and businesses. In the last 30 days, SBA has received nearly 5,600 loan applications.
Through FEMA’s Temporary Sheltering Assistance program, 184 families have checked-into 85 venues.
FEMA is implementing Direct Housing Assistance (DHA). DHA may include manufactured housing units (MHUs) and recreational vehicles (RVs) in existing commercial parks, campgrounds or pre-existing pads that have direct access to utilities. Housing Assistance covers moving MHUs and RVs to private property where codes, conditions and support infrastructure are available, as well as repairing or making improvements to existing multifamily housing units (ex. apartments) for use by wildfire survivors.
- FEMA has already moved families into FEMA-purchased RVs at a site that was used by survivors of last year’s wildfire disaster.
- RVs for Camp Fire survivors have been installed in Corning. Several families have already been identified to move into the trailers.
The Consolidated Debris Removal Program is a two-phase operation that involves the removal of household hazardous waste followed by the removal of other fire-related debris. The program is led by the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) in partnership with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), FEMA, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and other state, federal and local partners.
Phase 1 operations are underway with DTSC and U.S. EPA crews assessing and removing household hazardous waste from fire-damaged properties in all three counties. This is preparing the way for the safe removal of fire-related debris from properties that have opted to participate in the program. Thus far, almost 700 of the 12,797 affected properties in Butte County, over 200 properties out of 1,186 in Los Angeles County and over half of the 249 properties in Ventura County have completed Phase 1 operations.
The next part of the debris removal process is Phase 2 where CalRecycle-managed contractors will remove remaining debris and ash to restore properties to pre-fire conditions. This phase is expected to begin in January of 2019 in all three counties.
By the Numbers
More than 24,100 California families have applied for federal disaster assistance online at DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 800-621-3362 (TTY 800-462-7585). The vast majority of applicants – more than 21,000 – resided in hard-hit Butte County.
More than 31,000 individuals have visited Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) in Agoura Hills, Chico, Malibu, Oroville and Thousand Oaks. DRCs are jointly operated by the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) and FEMA. The Chico DRC alone has been visited by an average of more than 1,200 people a day since it opened on Nov. 16. DRCs offer information concerning resources available to homeowners, renters and business owners who sustained damage as a result of the wildfires.
Since Nov. 12, 74 FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistance personnel have visited more than 9,800 survivors in more, than 4,300 homes and public areas registering more than 2,700 survivors for FEMA assistance, providing needs assessments and referrals to community outreach nonprofits.
Funded by FEMA and administered by the California Employment Development Department, Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is available to qualified workers, business owners and self-employed individuals. Workers who have lost their job or business or had their work hours substantially reduced because of the fires, and do not qualify for regular state unemployment insurance benefits, may be eligible for DUA. The deadline to apply is December 14. For more information, visit https://www.edd.ca.gov/unemployment/Disaster_Unemployment_Assistance.htm
Food assistance is available to survivors. Survivors can apply for benefits through the CalFresh Program. For information, call 877-847-3663 or apply online Benefitscal.org.
The Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990, is a 24/7, 365-day-a–year, hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for disaster survivors and others who are experiencing emotional distress. Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster. Survivors can also text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
Disaster Legal Services
The Young Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association, provides limited free legal help and notary services for survivors. Three separate hotlines have been establish specific to each disaster declared county for survivors to use: Butte County, 800-345-9491; Los Angeles County, 800-870-0732; Ventura County, 877-301-4448. For more information, visit https://www.americanbar.org/groups/young_lawyers/disaster_legal_services/
The recovery process is going to take time. The November California wildfires caused historical damage and is a complicated and challenging recovery mission. FEMA, along with its federal and state partners is working to ensure survivors receive all benefits for which they are eligible.
All FEMA disaster assistance will be provided without discrimination on the grounds of race, color, sex (including sexual harassment), religion, national origin, age, disability, limited English proficiency, economic status, or retaliation. If you believe your civil rights are being violated, call 800-621-3362 or 800-462-7585(TTY/TDD).
FEMA’s mission: Helping people before, during, and after disasters.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is the federal government’s primary source of money for the long-term rebuilding of disaster-damaged private property. SBA helps businesses efforts and cover the cost of replacing lost or disaster-damaged personal property. These disaster loans cover losses not fully compensated by insurance or other recoveries and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies or organizations. For more information, applicants may contact SBA’s Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center by calling 800-659-2955, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or visiting SBA’s website at SBA.gov/disaster Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals may call 800-877-8339.