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FEMA gave SLO County residents more than $11 million for flood relief 

Correction: An earlier version of this story misrepresented the total funds that San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara County residents received from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). New Times miscalculated the data that FEMA provided in response to a Freedom and Information Act request for the number of people in SLO and Santa Barbara counties who received flood damage assistance during the major disaster declaration spanning Dec. 27, 2022, to Jan. 31, 2023. The SLO County Office of Emergency Services helped clarify the totals. The Housing Assistance award is a subcategory of the Individuals and Households Program. New Times regrets the error.

Homeowners and renters in San Luis Obispo County received more than $5.8 million in assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for flood damage incurred during January's storms.

click to enlarge MUCH NEEDED After the Jan. 9 winter storms wrecked several homes like this one in the city of San Luis Obispo, the Federal Emergency Management Agency gave eligible homeowners and renters almost $11.3 million in Individuals and Households Program and Housing Assistance awards. - FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • File Photo By Jayson Mellom
  • MUCH NEEDED After the Jan. 9 winter storms wrecked several homes like this one in the city of San Luis Obispo, the Federal Emergency Management Agency gave eligible homeowners and renters almost $11.3 million in Individuals and Households Program and Housing Assistance awards.

Following months of complaints from many SLO County residents that they fell through the cracks when requesting help from FEMA, data from the agency showed that locals received Individuals and Households Program awards, some of which took the form of Housing Assistance (HA) or Other Needs Assistance awards. SLO County residents received more than double what FEMA provided to applicants in neighboring Santa Barbara County.

According to FEMA data as of April 28, both homeowners and renters received funds. FEMA gave almost $5.2 million and roughly $380,000 in HA awards to 634 homeowners and 100 renters, respectively. SLO County Emergency Services Coordinator Rachel Dion told New Times that FEMA is still processing applications for individual assistance but isn't accepting new ones for damages incurred during the December to January storms.

In comparison, FEMA gave locals in Santa Barbara County a little more than $2.6 million in individual funds. FEMA data from April 28 showed that the agency gave more than $2.1 million in HA awards to 316 homeowners, and 53 renters received HA awards worth a little more than $285,000.

These funds apply only to the damages incurred over the series of storms that hit both counties from December to January, which received a major disaster declaration. Dion told New Times that FEMA visited SLO County to assess damage from the second set of rainstorms that began on Feb. 21. The federal major disaster declaration for those storms is still active.

"FEMA came out in April and did a preliminary damage assessment of homes damaged in the March storms but determined that we did not meet the threshold for Individual Assistance at that time," she said. "They could still technically approve it before the incident period ends, but we don't yet have an exact date for that."

FEMA also conducted damage assessments in Arroyo Grande on May 10 to determine relief amounts needed for that second set of storms from early spring.

The agency is gathering damage information in the face of the presidential emergency declaration that includes SLO County due to dangerous conditions resulting from severe winter storms, flooding, landslides, and mudslides in the spring. Previous New Times reporting found that county officials were racing to compile damage information in order to finalize a new emergency declaration for those storms.

On May 9, the Arroyo Grande City Council voted unanimously to consider adopting a resolution declaring a continued local emergency.

One area of interest is the Tally Ho neighborhood that has historically been wrecked by storms and flooding. FEMA's evaluations are separate from what the city collected on the flooding faced by the neighborhood's residents, according to Community Development Director Brian Pedrotti.

Arroyo Grande City Manager Whitney McDonald said that Community Development Department staff are assisting the Coastal San Luis Resource Conservation District in its evaluation and development of a Tally Ho Creek Restoration Project. ∆

Readers Poll

Do you think the SLO County Board of Supervisors should have gone against their policy that states funding for independent special districts should not result in a net fiscal loss to the county?

  • A. Yes, the housing and job opportunity the Dana Reserve is bringing is important
  • B. No, it's giving special privileges to the Nipomo Community Services District
  • C. I trust them, they know what's best for the county
  • D. What's going on?

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