by Jennifer Tipton
Phase I / Immediate Response: Within the first 30 days after the Thomas Fire erupted, United Way partnered with the Red Cross to identify those whose residences were damaged beyond habitability. There was no registration needed and eligibility was not income specific, 750 households were given a $500 pre-paid debit card. The money was distributed based on need with Ventura County receiving the greatest share because of the sheer number of homes lost.
Phase II / Mid-term Recovery: This phase took place in February and continued through April 30th, it allocated about 1.5 million dollars, but recipients had to apply, and income eligibility was set at 120% of the Area Median Income. (For Ventura County, HUD calculates the Area Median Income for a family of four as $96,000. 120% of $96,000 = approximately $115,000). This phase focused on hardship circumstances with most applicants requesting rental assistance. Case management was also provided by partner agencies.
Phase III / A continuation of phase II, phase III began in June and will go through the summer. Phase III was added to include those that did not apply or may have missed the deadline for phase II. The same guidelines apply.
Phase II and III are to support those with hardship circumstances, such as individuals who did not have insurance or those whose employment was interrupted and lost wages due to the fire. In late May, United Way voted unanimously to designate $300,000 for immigrant households affected by the fire because there were many farmworkers and service workers who lost wages.
According to Eric Harrison President and CEO of United Way of Ventura County, “we want to prioritize the most vulnerable population who have unmet needs”.
Phase IV / Long Term Recovery: Just added, any money not dispersed in an earlier phase will be carried over to phase IV. This phase will work with the Long-Term Recovery Group and their case management process to assist households affected by the Thomas Fire to plan for and achieve recovery goals. It will include assessment and verification of need, recovery plan, advocacy and connecting clients with community support. The anticipated timeline for phase IV is September to December 31st.
United Way of Ventura is part of the Long-Term Recovery Group which coordinates the management of the long-term recovery assistance to individuals affected by the disaster who do not have adequate personal resources for basic needs because of the disaster. Recommendations for long term recovery investments will be made by the Long-Term Recovery Case Management Committee.
“The Thomas Fire was a disaster like none other we have experienced, and we have all been impacted by the event in one way or another”, said Harrison.
United Way has raised 4.5 million dollars and I’m told has spent half within six months and has NOT taken any administrative fees. Check the website for eligibility and to see where funds have been distributed, click Thomas Fire Fund at: www.vcunitedway.org