$180 million Approved for Wildfire Survivors

**Story Updated 12/13/18 to reflect latest SBA figures

A month after California endured the most destructive wildfires on record, federal and state agencies have provided nearly $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 survivors 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 replacements 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 $125 million in low-interest disaster loans to homeowners and businesses. In the last 30 days, SBA has received nearly 5,600 loan applications.

Housing Assistance

With nearly 5,300 families displaced by the fires, the majority in the town of Paradise, the search for temporary housing has become FEMA’s top priority in the recovery.

Through FEMA’s Temporary Sheltering Assistance program, 184 families have been placed into 85 venues.

FEMA is also implementing its Direct Housing Assistance (DHA) program. 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.  It also covers 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.

Debris Removal

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 affected counties. This is prepares the path 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 of the 1,186 properties 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, restoring 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 ­– reside in 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 has been visited by an average of more than 1,200 people per 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 and more than 4,300 homes and public areas, registering more than 2,700 survivors for federal assistance, and 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, 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

CalFresh Program

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.

Crisis Counseling

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 depression are common 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/


RJ Ghilarducci

RJ Ghilarducci is a Public Information Officer for the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES). He joined the OES team to aid in 2018's Camp, Woolsey, Hill, and Holy Fire recoveries. He previously served on Governor Gavin Newsom's campaign, worked as a newspaper reporter, and coached Division 1 college football.

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