A quick look at post-disaster relief

by Mira Reverente

Ventura, Santa Barbara and other neighboring areas took a beating with the wildfires, mudflows, flooding and debris flows. With this recent spate of natural disasters, one wonders where, when and what type of assistance programs may be available to those who suffered damages or losses.

Federal assistance
After an amendment to the presidential disaster declaration of January 2nd, federal assistance is now available to eligible individuals and business owners in Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles and San Diego counties.

To register for federal assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), one should have the following information available:

Social security number
Address of the primary damaged residence
Description of the damage
Information about insurance coverage
A contact telephone number
An address to receive mail
Bank account and routing numbers for direct deposit of funds

Disaster assistance for homeowners and renters may include grants to cover:

Rental assistance
Essential home repairs
Uninsured and underinsured personal property losses
Other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance

Low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) are also available for businesses of all sizes (including landlords), private non-profit organizations, homeowners and renters.

FEMA grants do not have to be repaid. They are non-taxable and do not affect eligibility for Social Security, Medicaid or other federal benefits.

One-stop shops
In addition, a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) has opened in Ventura County. A one-stop shop for disaster assistance jointly operated by FEMA and the Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), the DRC is open almost daily except Sundays.

Check feta.gov/drc for current hours and disasterassistance.gov to apply online before proceeding to the DRC, located at the Ventura County Credit Union on 6026 Telephone Road, Ventura

In Santa Barbara, a local assistance center (LAC) is also now open at Calvary Chapel, 1 North Calle Cesar Chavez. Staffed by FEMA, SBA and other federal, state and local agencies, the LAC is ope daily except Sundays as well.

Online registration with FEMA is encouraged for both the DRC and LAC, but it’s not mandatory.

Preparation is key
This month, a tsunami watch ensued after an intense earthquake in the Gulf of Alaska. One of the most powerful and destructive natural forces, tsunamis can cause dangerous coastal flooding and powerful currents that can last several hours or days.

To prepare for future natural disasters like tsunamis, FEMA highlights these safety tips especially for those who live near coastal communities like Ventura:

Create and practice an evacuation plan with your family. Have an escape route at night and during inclement weather.
Create a family communications plan to reconnect in case you get separated. Establish a meeting place that’s familiar and easy to find.
Build an emergency kit that will last at least 72 hours.

For more information on California recovery, visit www.fema.gov/disaster4353, disasterassistance.gov and wildfirerecovery.org. Or download the FEMA app on your smartphone.

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