napavalleyregister.com | October 28, 2014 –
Napa County has received the long-awaited word that millions in federal dollars will be available to homeowners, renters and business owners who suffered losses during the Aug. 24 south Napa earthquake.
Homeowners and renters will be able to apply to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for grants under the Individuals and Households Program. FEMA and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services made the announcement Monday night.
In addition, the U.S. Small Business Administration announced Tuesday it will make low-interest loans available to businesses and residents who suffered earthquake losses.
An earlier disaster declaration by President Barack Obama on Sept. 11 made federal assistance available only for government agencies and certain nonprofit agencies. Since then, the town has been waiting in suspense to see if federal help for residents and businesses would be coming as well.
“It’s very good news and a bit of a surprise, in the sense that they were telling us that the longer it takes, the less likely we were to get it,” Napa Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Luce said on Tuesday.
But local officials had done more than wait. Napa Mayor Jill Techel said they accompanied FEMA and state officials on a tour about a week ago that included going inside damaged homes in Browns Valley along the West Napa Fault.
“From the naked eye outside, they weren’t able to accurately judge the amount of destruction,” Techel said.
Luce said that FEMA will provide financial assistance to those who need it most. The agency will also coordinate local recovery efforts and help nonprofit agencies identify needs.
“They are what I call the quarterback of the team here,” Luce said. “I’m really thrilled they’re joining us so we can begin this part of the recovery process in earnest.”
Techel said that FEMA assistance will allow people to use other money in a way that maximizes the dollars available. She mentioned the $10 million donated for earthquake recovery by Napa Valley Vintners that is being managed by the Napa Valley Community Foundation.
Residents and businesses owners who are seeking either FEMA or SBA assistance can contact FEMA at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or 800-621-3362 or, by smart phone, at m.fema.gov. They need not try to sort out the various assistance programs themselves.
“The way we work with FEMA is very seamless,” said SBA spokesman Rick Jenkins, who called FEMA registration “the key that unlocks the doors to all federal and state programs.”
Napa County suffered an estimated $362.4 million in public and private damages in the magnitude 6.0 South Napa earthquake. In addition, the wine industry estimated it suffered $80.3 million in damages, bringing the countywide total to $442.7 million.
FEMA grants are available for such things as house repairs, disaster-related medical costs and replacing personal property. Grants cannot be used to duplicate payments made by insurance. The maximum grant for households is just over $32,000, FEMA spokesman Kurt Pickering said.
“Every survivor situation is unique,” Pickering said Tuesday. “The benefits are unique as well.”
People should register immediately for assistance and not to wait for insurance settlements, Pickering said. The deadline to apply for FEMA assistance is Nov. 10, but the agency is working on an extension, he said. He wasn’t certain Tuesday afternoon if the agency had extended the deadline to Dec. 29.
“The most important thing is, if you register now, you don’t have to deal with that,” Pickering said.
People can apply for grants regardless of income. Pickering said FEMA has no formal means of testing.
The SBA will lend qualifying homeowners up to $200,000 to replace or repair their real estate. It will lend homeowners and renters up to $40,000 to replace personal property, such as appliances and cars. Loans can have interest rates as low 2 percent and have no points, application fees or closing costs.
“These are direct loans from the taxpayers straight out of the Treasury,” Jenkins said.
The agency will lend businesses of any size up to $2 million to repair property and replace equipment, inventory and other business assets. These loans can have interest rates as low as 4 percent. Small businesses can also seek working capital loans to help make ongoing financial obligations.
SBA loans are for a maximum of 30 years. The deadline to apply for physical damage loans is Dec. 29 and the deadline for economic injury loans is July 27.
Jenkins said the program has no means testing, though the interest rates can vary.
“The overwhelming majority of all our applicants are approved at the lower interest rates,” Jenkins said.
Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, welcomed the news of the federal disaster aid for homeowners and businesses. He’s ready to work with federal, state and local officials to make certain people know that assistance is available, who qualifies and how to apply, he said.
“My office is also ready to assist with any hurdles people may encounter,” he said in a press release.
Napa County previously secured FEMA individual assistance for the Sept. 3, 2000 earthquake that caused an estimated $50 million in damage, mostly in west Napa. The 2000 earthquake had a magnitude of 5.2.
More than 5,000 people applied for aid, with 3,932 receiving housing grants, 1,025 receiving disaster loans and 351 receiving individual and family grants. The amount of assistance totaled $25 million, according to a report by Napa County and the city of Napa.