President Trump approved federal disaster aid to Santa Clara County and other parts of California affected by the February floods, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced Sunday.
Trump had already signed off on Gov. Jerry Brown’s request for funding to help counties affected by the January storms, which ended five years of drought and inundated low-lying communities along the Sacramento and Russian rivers. This week’s decision will free up additional funding to 42 California counties where severe rainfall, floods and mudslides devastated homes, businesses and roadways last month.
San Jose was caught off guard by flooding Feb. 21 to 22, as water spilled over Anderson Dam and washed out neighborhoods along Coyote Creek. Local officials estimate that the flood caused at least $100 million in damage.
Under the presidential major disaster declaration, Santa Clara and other counties are now eligible for FEMA funding to reimburse up to 75 percent of the cost to local governments of repairs, debris cleanup and some preventive flood protection. Other Bay Area counties that qualify for federal relief including San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Sonoma, Napa, Contra Costa, Alameda and Marin.
It should be noted that the FEMA funding is slated for local governments—not individual flood victims. Financial relief for individual flood victims is available in the form of small, low-interest loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration for those who qualify.
In a March 19 letter requesting disaster aid from the president, Brown wrote that the “widespread damage” from last month’s flooding was “constant and continuous,” and that statewide damage amounted to more than $500 million. In the first 23 days of February, Brown wrote, more than 110,000 households and businesses lost power, roads and bridges collapsed, and eight people died.
Remarkably, no one died in the San Jose flood, although thousands were driven from their homes and lost their cars.
In the wake of the flood, victims had to deal with rent hikes from landlords and unscrupulous contractors. A number of people who sublet homes damaged by the flood said they were excluded from funding when their landlords pocketed what little relief funds were made available in the past month.
The deluge also drove hundreds of homeless people from their creekside encampments and destroyed their belongings. Yet to date, flood relief for the homeless has come largely from grassroots organizers who have criticized San Jose for systematically excluding its unsheltered residents in official recovery efforts.
Also this week, city officials unveiled a car replacement program for flood victims. Together with the Goodwill of Silicon Valley, the Del Grande Dealer Group, Catholic Charities, the city put out a call for car donations.
The Silicon Valley Auto Dealers Association and Rotary Club provided cash donations. Del Grande agreed to give flood victims a steep discount on car repairs or used car sales. Catholic Charities will help refer people who need it most. The City Council, for its part, will vote on whether to donate 20 surplus city vehicles to kick-start the program.
Those interested in donating cars should contact Goodwill Silicon Valley at 408.869.9101. Flood victims who need a car should call Catholic Charities at 866.305.0617 or 408.468.0100.
For information about FEMA funding, below is a copy of the agency’s press release announcing its disaster relief program for California.
FEDERAL AID PROGRAMS FOR THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Following is a summary of key federal disaster aid programs that can be made available as needed and warranted under President Trump’s disaster declaration issued for the State of California.
Assistance Can Include as Required:
- Payment of not less than 75 percent of the eligible costs for debris removal and emergency protective measures taken to save lives and protect property and public health. Emergency protective measures assistance is available to state, tribal and eligible local governments on a cost-sharing basis. (Source: FEMA funded, state administered.)
- Payment of not less than 75 percent of the eligible costs for repairing or replacing damaged public facilities, such as roads, bridges, utilities, buildings, schools, recreational areas, and similar publicly owned property, as well as certain private non-profit organizations engaged in community service activities. (Source: FEMA funded, state administered.)
- Payment of not more than 75 percent of the approved costs for hazard mitigation projects undertaken by state, tribal, and local governments to prevent or reduce long-term risk to life and property from natural or technological disasters. (Source: FEMA funded, state administered.)