Nearly $350 Million in Federal Grants and Loans for Wildfire Survivors


Over the two months since wildfires in two disparate regions of the state grew into deadly disasters of historic proportions, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) have approved more than $347 million in grants and low-interest disaster loans to assist survivors in their recovery.

The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) continues to lead the overall coordination efforts with its local, state and federal partners to help the affected the communities and survivors recover. Cal OES is also charged with leading the two-phase debris removal operations program for homes destroyed by the wildfires. Phase 1 Household Hazardous Waste operations are progressing, and Phase 2 Debris Removal operations are now underway. CalRecycle is the operational lead of Phase 2 operations, which begins with individual site assessment/documentation and the removal of any remaining asbestos. Removal of ash, wildfire debris, and contaminated soil is set to begin the week of January 28.

FEMA is coordinating federal government support to the State of California, as it leads recovery efforts following the destruction of nearly 255,000 acres by three mid-November wildfires: The Camp Fire in Butte County and the Hill and Woolsey fires in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

More than 15,000 California families lost their homes and everything in them; more than 6,200 other structures were destroyed. Virtually the entire Town of Paradise in Butte County was burned to the ground.  

FEMA’s Housing Assistance (HA) program offers financial assistance to help repair or replace an owner-occupied primary residence when the house has been damaged or destroyed and financial assistance to renters and homeowners for temporary rental assistance.  To date, FEMA has approved $38.3 million (an average of over $638,000 per day) in financial assistance to homeowners, and to renters for temporary rental assistance. Another $22 million has been approved for Other Needs Assistance, including disaster‐related medical, dental and funeral costs; clothing; household items such as furniture and appliances; tools and materials required for employment or schooling, fire damage to a vehicle and other disaster-related expenses.

The U.S. Small Business Administration, FEMA’s federal partner in disaster recovery, has approved 2,451 low-interest disaster loans to California businesses and residents totaling more than $287 million.

More numbers

More than 26,000 survivors have registered to receive FEMA assistance. The last day to apply for FEMA assistance and SBA loans is Jan. 31, 2019.

  • More than 85 percent of FEMA applicants live, or lived, in Butte County.
  • About one-third of all applicants registered online at[http://www.disasterassistance,gov/]

Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) and Mobile Disaster Recovery Centers (MDRCs) are jointly operated by the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) and FEMA.

  • The 11 DRCs and MDRCs open in the last 60 days have offered information concerning resources available to homeowners, renters and business owners who sustained damage because of the wildfires.
  • About 50,000 visitors have been counted at the DRCs and MDRCs. That’s more than 830 per day. The DRC in Chico (Butte County) alone served a daily average of 770 visitors — some days reaching more than 1,200.

Administered by the California Employment Development Department and funded by FEMA, the Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) program provides temporary unemployment benefits to survivors who suffered from job loss, reduced hours or loss of a business as a direct result of the wildfire disaster and who do not qualify for regular state unemployment insurance benefits.

  • More than 700 claimants have been approved for DUA benefits.
  • DUA applies to losses beginning the week of Nov. 11, 2018.
  • Application deadline is March 15, 2019.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California Department of Toxic Substances Control continue to lead recovery efforts in surveying, collecting and disposing of household hazardous waste. This is Phase 1 of the debris removal process at affected properties within the burn footprints in Butte County (including the Town of Paradise), Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

To date:

  • More than 8,000 parcels out of 13,000 in Butte County have been cleared;
  • Over 1,200 of more than 1,300 parcels in Los Angeles County, and
  • All but a handful of the 297 affected parcels in Ventura County.

As the disaster recovery process continues into its third month, state, local and federal agencies are keeping a close watch on the weather:


  • Large scale fires leave the land stripped of vegetation, charred and less able to absorb rainfall.
  • What starts as normal rainfall can turn quickly into costly and potentially deadly floods and debris-choked mudflows.
  • The increased risks of flooding in burned areas can continue for years.
  • Homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover damage caused by flooding. Residents and business owners are encouraged to buy flood insurance now. In most cases, it takes 30 days for the policy to go into effect.
  • For more information on flood risks and insurance, visit

1 Comment

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