On October 8, 2017 President Trump signed a Major Disaster Declaration for the California areas hit by wildfires.
This means federal disaster assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is available to supplement state and local efforts. This not only allows the State, Counties, Municipalities and Trial governments to receive funds for clean-up and fire-fighting efforts, but also for individuals who were affected as well. Currently, the Counties eligible for this aid are Sonoma, Napa, Butte, Lake, Mendocino, Nevada, Orange and Yuba counties.
A number of Emergency Service Centers have opened in the affected areas to allow individuals to register for FEMA aid as well as a means to obtain personal documents that may have been lost such as driver’s license, birth certificates and social security cards. There is also assistance to help victims file insurance claims.
Everyone affected is urged to apply for aid. You can visit one of the local events or apply online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or via telephone at (800) 621-3362. You will need some basic information including your social security number, address of the damaged residence, a description of the damage, insurance coverage information, a telephone number, an address where you can receive mail, and your bank account and routing number for receiving direct deposit of funds.
The amount of aid a person is eligible to receive is dependent upon their needs, but could be as much as $34,000 in FEMA grant money for things temporary housing, home repairs and losses not covered by insurance. These are grants that are nontaxable income and do not need to be repaid. Nor do these grants affect your eligibility for Social Security, Medicaid or any other federal benefits.
There are also low-rate small business loans from the SBA that can be used to pay costs not covered by insurance. This includes individuals who did not have any insurance coverage (uninsured) or had coverage that will be inadequate to cover all losses (underinsured). The loans are capped at $200,000 at an interest rate of 1.75%. There are also personal property loans of up to $40,000 that are available to cover personal property items that were not covered by insurance or were inadequately covered. This includes automobiles.
For business owners who suffered fire related damage, there are small business loans available to cover losses not covered or inadequately covered by insurance. These loans are available up to $2 million dollars at 0.3% interest rate.
The SBA loans are for a loan period of 30 years. However, to qualify the applicant must meet credit requirements and provide proof of your ability to repay the loan.
For information on seeking reimbursement for uninsured losses, please visit our wildfire lawsuits page.