President George W. Bush declared 10 California counties that were battered by storms and flooding over the holidays as disaster areas where homeowners and businesses will be eligible for federal aid, the White House announced.
The presidential declaration, which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger requested on Jan. 17, makes money available to individuals in the affected counties who either did not have flood insurance or whose damage exceeded the coverage in their policies.
It covers costs such as rent for residents who were flooded out of their homes, repairs to make dwellings livable and some cleanup costs. The designation also permits the Small Business Administration to make low-interest repair loans available to businesses and property owners in the areas.
The 10 counties covered by the declaration are Contra Costa, Del Norte, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Sacramento, Siskiyou, Solano and Sonoma.
In their application for federal relief, state officials estimated about $39 million worth of damage and other costs in those 10 counties would qualify.
The president also made another 19 counties eligible for a more limited form of disaster relief that reimburses state and local governments and local chapters of groups like the American Red Cross for the costs of mopping up public buildings and assisting residents in storm-affected areas.
The state estimated that the storm would cost the federal government another $155 million in aid to state and local governments and $203 million in loans.
Although the Republican governor declared emergencies in 34 of the state’s 58 counties after the New Year’s weekend floods swamped much of Northern California, he limited his request for the highest level of federal assistance to the 10 counties with the worst damage, said Eric Lamoureux, spokesman for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.
“We are certainly pleased by the president’s actions and look forward to working with FEMA (Federal Emergency management Agency) to get assistance going to the home and business owners hardest hit by the storms,” Lamoureux said.
Members of the state’s congressional delegation applauded the news. With FEMA struggling to help Gulf Coast victims of Hurricane Katrina, some had feared California’s comparatively smaller disaster might get overlooked for funding.
“I’m relieved and gratified the Administration has finally realized the true extent of damage caused by the New Year’s floods and storms,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, a Napa Democrat. “This was the last major hurdle we had to clear in order to get badly needed federal assistance to those who suffered the most.”
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