Category Archives: Fire Info

VCCDC has created a disaster recovery assistance grant program.

VCCDC offers disaster recovery grants for Thomas Fire Victims.

Ventura County Community Development Corporation (VCCDC), a local non-profit community economic development organization, has created a disaster recovery assistance grant program for Ventura and Santa Barbara County residents who were affected by the Thomas Fire and/or Montecito Mudslides. The funds come from an $800,000 commitment made by Wells Fargo to assist with economic recovery for those affected by the Thomas Fire and Montecito Mudslide. The initial $300,000 in grant funds were awarded to five local non-profits, including VCCDC, Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV), Ventura County Community Foundation (VCCF), Red Cross and Food Share, Inc. The remaining $500,000 will be distributed to nonprofits in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties over the course of the year, as plans and programs are developed to address current and emerging community needs.

VCCDC plans to use the funds it was awarded through this grant to provide individual grants of up to $1,000 for households affected by the disasters. Applicants must be residents of Ventura or Santa Barbara County and must demonstrate a financial loss due to the fire and/or mudslides. The funds will be given directly to the applicant to be used for existing needs ranging anywhere from housing to living expense needs caused by loss of wages or business losses caused by disasters. There are no income or household size limits. One grant per eligible household or business will be awarded. Additional criteria and requirements apply.

“Although eight months have passed since the Thomas Fire began its destructive path in Ventura County and attention has shifted, the need for financial assistance for those affected is still very much present. We are grateful to our community partner, Wells Fargo, for stepping up to show their support for our community during the recovery period. Our hope is that through these small individual grants we can lessen the financial burden that the affected families are still feeling,” says VCCDC Executive Director, Bertha Garcia.

Full application, document requirements, eligibility criteria, and submission details can be found at starting on Monday, August 27th at 10am. Applications will be accepted until all qualified recipients have been identified.

Since it was founded in 2001 as a local non-profit organization, VCCDC has worked to increase homeownership and economic stability in underserved communities of Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. VCCDC is dedicated to ensuring that homebuyers are prepared for homeownership with the support of certified professionals who provide education and guidance, assisting with planning and problem solving. All VCCDC staff is bilingual, proudly serving the community. VCCDC accomplishes its work in partnership with other community organizations, and is financially supported by private and public funds. Visit at and

For questions please contact Keily Victoria, Administration Support Manager for VCCDC, at 805-273-7800 or

Property tax relief available for those impacted by fires

If your property has been damaged by the recent fires, you may be eligible for property tax relief. In many cases, the damaged property can be reappraised in its current condition, with some taxes refunded to the property owner. Once rebuilt, the property’s pre damaged value will be restored.

To qualify for property tax relief, you must file a claim with your county assessors’ office within 12 months from the date of damage or destruction. The loss estimate must be at least $10,000 of current market value to qualify.

Owners of eligible property may also apply for deferral of the next property tax installment on the regular secured roll or tax payments on the supplemental roll, without penalties or interest. The disaster must be the result of a Governor-proclaimed state of emergency. When a timely claim for deferral is filed, the next property tax installment payment is deferred without penalty or interest until the county assessor has reassessed the property and a corrected tax bill has been sent to the property owner.

For further information on property tax disaster relief, please see go to

United Way amplifies recovery assistance for those Impacted by Thomas Fire

Relief in the form of $1,500 from the United Way Thomas Fire and Flood Fund is on its way to the primary residents of households whose homes were destroyed or majorly damaged in the December blaze, United Way of Ventura County has announced.

In the latest round of funding, The American Red Cross of the Central Coast has identified more than 600 households whose homes were destroyed or majorly damaged, as classified by FEMA and CAL FIRE. United Way is distributing the funds to victims with the assistance of the Red Cross and 2-1-1 Ventura County. Similar to Phase I distribution, there are no income restrictions associated with this financial assistance.

“Rebuilding and recovering from the Thomas Fire will take years, and many victims may just be finding out they are in more difficult situations than they had thought,” said Eric Harrison, CEO, United Way of Ventura County. “Recovery has been a community effort, and we know residents will find these funds useful as they continue through the long-term process.”

Recipients of this latest round of funding will also be assessed for inclusion in Long-Term Recovery, the next phase in the United Way’s recovery efforts.

Identified households will be receiving a phone call from 2-1-1 Ventura County to assist with accessing services available from a variety of long-term recovery agencies and, in some cases, verify addresses if they have not been provided. Call 2-1-1 or text your zip code to 898-211 to inquire about United Way’s amplified assistance and services from long-term recovery agencies.

To date, the United Way Thomas & Fire Flood Fund has raised more than $4.5 million.

Applications will remain open through August.

Since 1945, United Way of Ventura County has advanced the common good by creating opportunities for a better life for all. For more information about United Way of Ventura County, visit

Thomas Fire evacuation focus groups

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley are conducting two focus groups in the Ventura/Santa Barbara area on the 2017 Thomas wildfire evacuations.

Focus Group 1: Low Income
Saturday, August 25th – 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. – E.P. Foster Library in Ventura


1) Evacuated or received an evacuation order for the 2017 Thomas Fire

2) Have a household income under $40,000

Focus Group 2: Spanish Speaking

Sunday, August 26th – 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. – E.P. Foster Library in Ventura


1) Evacuated or received an evacuation order for the 2017 Thomas Fire

2) Speak Spanish as the primary language at home

For those chosen to participate, each person will receive a $100 Amazon Gift Card. Participants will be selected on a first-come-first-serve basis.

If you are interested, please go to

And fill out the form.

Grassroots partnership provides aid for those who don’t qualify for other programs

With the full effects of the Thomas Fire’s devastation still emerging, the Ventura County Community Foundation (VCCF) has awarded a $500,000 grant to a community-based partnership providing relief and recovery support to undocumented immigrants.

The 805 UndocuFund is a partnership among Mixteco/ Indigenous Community Organizing Project (MICOP), Central Coast United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE), and Future Leaders of America (FLA). These grassroots organizations based in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties have a solid reputation, strong track record, and are familiar to and trusted by undocumented and mixed status households, said Vanessa Bechtel, CEO of the Ventura County Community Foundation.

To administer the 805 UndocuFund, the McCune Foundation and the Weingart Foundation provided grants for case management and leadership support. The Ventura County Community Foundation is providing fundraising and fund administrative support. The Santa Barbara Foundation and the Roy and Patricia Disney Family Foundation provided additional support for overhead costs.

With this latest grant from VCCF, total funds raised for the 805 UndocuFund reached just over $1.2 million. Now with only $30,000 remaining to be distributed, an additional $500,000 is necessary to assist qualified individuals already on a waiting list.

The 805 UndocuFund partnership is seeking volunteers to interview affected families and to help victims fill out eligibility paperwork, process applications and other functions. A volunteer application is online at

An estimated 126,000 undocumented immigrants live and work in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. Undocumented immigrants predominantly work in sectors that have been or will be hard hit, including service, hospitality, child and elder care, day labor, and agriculture. Many have lost wages in the weeks following the Thomas Fire

The fund will assist individuals and families who have lost their homes, wages, or employment due to the Thomas Fire. Some of the costs associated with living expenses may include, but are not limited to, temporary housing, home repairs, rent and groceries.

CAUSE is a nonprofit community organization that works to advance social, economic and environmental justice for the people of Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties through policy research, leadership development, organizing and advocacy.

Since the December 4 start of the Thomas Fire, VCCF has secured more than $2.8 million in contributions for support of relief and recovery efforts and has made grants totaling $2.15 million to nonprofit organizations engaged in front-line relief efforts. Currently, VCCF holds approximately $600,000 dedicated for mid- to long-term relief strategies in its Community Disaster Fund.

VCCF invests the charitable capital that drives the philanthropic engines of Ventura County. The foundation was established in 1987 and endeavors to build philanthropy in the region and to give generously for the well-being of all in Ventura County. VCCF invests in the future through scholarships, grant making and collaborative partnerships. For more information or to donate, visit

Innovative online platform developed for Thomas Fire will transform global disaster recovery

Greg Monterrosa, HUB 101, honoree Emily Barany and State Senator Kevin De Leon.

On Sunday, July 22, Emily Barany, co-founder of was honored by the Democratic Club of Ventura County. Emily was presented with the “2018 Outstanding Entrepreneur Award” in recognition of her business acumen and her leadership in developing

Emily is the owner of Visionality, a business consultancy that has supported the work of nonprofit organizations in the region since 2011.

In the immediate hours after the Thomas Fire began in December 2017, was born as Emily’s fourth and perhaps most impactful venture. The online platform that began as a scrappy “Craigslist” of recovery has become a meaningful leader in recovery efforts for survivors of the not only the Thomas Fire, but the Montecito Mudslide and Holiday Fire.

Today, Emily and the team is working with Greg Monterrosa of Hub 101 at California Lutheran University to incubate her fifth company. Emily Barany said, “Our new company will be a global tech platform that revolutionizes the way communities recover from disaster.” She continued, “It is recognition from organizations like the Democratic Club of Ventura that prove to me that I am on the right path.”

“At its core, the Democratic Club of Ventura is a group of individuals who make a difference together. Through grassroots activism, we strengthen our voice and build relationships that help achieve our goals, “ said Diana Sparagna, President of the Democratic Club of Ventura. “We are excited to recognize Emily Barany, the founder of

The 2018 Outstanding Entrepreneur Award recognizes her life-long entrepreneurial spirit and the outstanding work she has done to cultivate a grassroots recovery campaign that has helped innumerable survivors of the devastating Thomas Fire, as well as our neighbors affected by the Montecito mudslide and Holiday fire.

In addition to the recognition of Emily’s leadership, the award also includes a cash donation to ThomasFireHelp. The award will be matched dollar for dollar by the Gene Haas Foundation. Earlier this month, the Gene Haas Foundation, recognizing the potential for the model to be an international leader in disaster assistance awarded the team a $25,000 Challenge Grant. To help the ThomasFireHelp team meet the challenge visit:

Emily competed in “Dancing with our Community Stars” at Oxnard’s Salsa Festival, July 29. She danced on behalf of Every dollar donated counts as a vote for Emily and will be matched by the Gene Haas Foundation Challenge Grant.

If you are a survivor of the Thomas Fire, Montecito Slide or Holiday Fire and need assistance or would like to offer help, visit:

Funds raised are used to sustain programs in three areas of focus

Open house and ribbon cutting held for United Way. Photo by Michael Gordon

The United Way of Ventura County held an open house and ribbon cutting on June 19 to officially dedicate its new headquarters at 702 County Square Drive, Suite 100, in Ventura. The agency relocated in December from Camarillo.

“We’re very excited about our new headquarters, which is in shared space with one of our community partners, Cabrillo Economic Development Corp. And with this move, we are saving nearly $100,000 per year, money that will be used to support various community needs,” said Eric Harrison, president and CEO of the United Way of Ventura County.

Additionally, the agency will be kicking off its annual workplace employee campaign for 2018-19. Funds raised are used to sustain programs in three areas of focus: education, income and health. Top employers running campaigns this year include Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Procter and Gamble, Enterprise, the Ventura County government, UPS, Costco, Target, Our Promise (state employees), AT&T and Macy’s.

To learn more about the United Way of Ventura County, visit

H.O.P.E. after the Thomas Fire

by Jennifer Tipton

Ventura County Behavioral Health has collaborated with a long-term community mental health team called California HOPE of Ventura County, a federally funded and trained community-based counseling program created to support the community after the Thomas Fire.

H.O.P.E. is an acronym for: Helping – Outreach – Possibilities – Empowerment.

The long-term effects of a disaster on mental health come in many stages, the difficult reactions one may experience can occur months after the initial disaster. Individuals that may initially appear unaffected, might later become overwhelmed and unable to effectively cope.

Reactions to a disaster such as the Thomas Fire are emotional, behavioral, cognitive and psychological and do not manifest in any certain order at any specific time.

Family and friends can help to identify these individuals and implement active listening and validation as effective ways to help survivors cope with their loss.

California HOPE services are free and confidential with the goal of implementing effective coping skills.

Services include: Individual and group counseling for

survivors, family and friends / Assessment and referrals /

Distribution of educational materials.

Counseling goals include: Helping disaster survivors understand their current situation and reactions / Reducing stress and providing emotional support / Assisting survivors in creating a wellness and recovery plan / Promoting the use or development of coping strategies and personal resilience / Providing friends and family members with education to support those affected / Connecting survivors to other resources.

Several support groups began mid-June in Ventura, Ojai, Santa Paula and Fillmore with more anticipated. The program is long term, just as the recovery process is long term.

We at the Ventura Breeze encourage those affected by the Thomas Fire to reach out to these services as needed.

If you or someone you know needs support, please contact HOPE of Ventura County at (805) 833-9495 or .

County to hold public meetings for Thomas Fire designers and contractors

Designers and contractors planning to work on projects for the reconstruction of buildings damaged or destroyed by the Thomas Fire are invited to attend a public outreach presentation to learn about the building permit process, including the County’s expedited process for fire victims.

Representatives from the California State Licensing Board, Ventura County Building and Safety Department, and other County agencies will be present and available to explain, answer questions, and share information about the permitting process and how to avoid time-wasting pitfalls.

The first meeting will be held on Wednesday, June 27, In the Hall of Administration at the County Government Center, 800 S. Victoria Ave. The meeting will be in in the Lower Plaza Assembly Room, 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Please RSVP at (805) 654-2795 or to

Separate outreach meetings are being scheduled in Ojai and Upper Ojai for affected property owners to receive information on obtaining a building permit for re-building their homes. The meeting dates and locations will be announced soon, and all are welcome to attend the Ventura meeting.

United Way adds 4th phase to Thomas Fire and Flood Fund distribution

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: