FEMA offers disaster assistance to help Calif. counties pay winter storm costs

The federal government has made disaster assistance available to help Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, Imperial, Calaveras and Siskiyou counties pay for costs stemming from severe winter storms January and February.

The funding is available to state and local governments and some private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and repair or replacement of facilities damaged by storms from Jan. 17 to Feb. 6, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said in a statement.

The statement was headlined "President Declares Major Disaster For California." Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger requested the disaster declaration in early February.

"This action by President Obama will get assistance where it's needed most," Schwarzenegger said Monday. "It will also help reduce a significant portion of the financial burden the storms have placed on communities throughout California."

The FEMA announcement specifies "public assistance" is available for emergency work in six California counties. The agency noted "individual assistance" is not part of the disaster declaration.

Under Obama's declaration, assistance for state and affected local governments can include payment of 75 percent of eligible costs for:

  • Repairing and replacing damaged public facilities such as roads, bridges, utilities, buildings, schools, recreational areas and similar publicly owned property, as well as certain private nonprofit community service organizations;
  • Removing debris from public areas, and for emergency measures taken to save lives and protect property and public health;
  • Hazard mitigation projects to prevent long-term risk to life and property from natural or technological disasters.
  • Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said.

    According to the governor's office, the state identified more than $59.1 million in storm costs and damage eligible for reimbursement through FEMA and more than $33.3 million eligible for reimbursement through the Federal Highway Administration.

    Los Angeles County officials have warned that clearing debris after storms in and below the Station Fire burn area could cost "hundreds of millions of dollars," far more than the estimated $90 million local, state and federal agencies spent last year fighting the 250-square-mile blaze, the largest in county history.

    The most current debris basin cleanout schedule, updated Monday, pushed back total cleanout for 29 erosion protection structures to April 15. Four structures were listed as 100 percent cleaned-out. Eight other structures were listed 55 percent to 85 percent cleared.

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