USA — President Bush issued a major disaster declaration Tuesday for Southern California, making federal funding available for local San Fernando Valley residents who lost their homes or suffered other losses in the recent wildfires.
“Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said.
This is good news for recent fire victims in need of help but disappointing for victims of last month’s Marek and Seson Fires who believe they should also receive help from FEMA.
“We need FEMA too,” said Dana Xedos, a victim of the Marek Fire. That fire leveled the Sky Terrace Mobile Home Park where Xedos and 58 families lived. The Marek and Seson Fires burned over 4,823 acres. “All of us need equity and equal access to services,” she said. “A lot of criteria needs to be met, [before a federal declaration can be issued]” said FEMA spokesman Dick O’Reily. The criteria can consider the number of homes that are insured and the magnitude of the fire.
Greg Renick a spokesperson for the state Office of Emergency Planning said while victims of the previous Marek Fire were not eligible for benefits under this FEMA disaster declaration, they are eligible for benefits under the SBA. “There are loans for both homeowners, owners of businesses and renters.”
Perrino said that Federal FEMAfunding also is available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance. Gov.Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote Bush on Monday asking him to make the disaster declaration. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, both DCalif., and 39 members of the state’s congressional delegation sent Bush a letter Tuesday also urging him to make the declaration.
In their letter, the lawmakers wrote that a disaster declaration “will provide the essential federal resources needed not only to save the lives, homes and livelihoods of Californians, but also to help people recover and rebuild when these fires are finally extinguished.”
According to Perino, other Southern California counties may be available for assistance after damage assessments are completed. Schwarzenegger had earlier declared a state of emergency for all of the affected counties, along with San Bernardino County.
Residents and business owners who sustained loses in LosAngeles, Orange, Riverside and Santa Barbara counties can begin applying for federal assistance by registering online at www.fema.gov.