STORM & RECOVERY UPDATE 1.14.23, 7:30PM
Published: January 14, 2023
The most up-to-date County emergency resources can always be found at SocoEmergency.org
It’s another round of good news: we’ve avoided major flooding along the lower Russian River! NOAA is currently projecting that the Russian River will crest at 30 feet, two feet shy of flood stage, Sunday morning. (And in other good news… the 49ers beat the Seahawks earlier today, thrilling a certain three-year-old fan. )
Our EOC staff and local non-profit leaders have been working around the clock with Director of Office of Equity Alegría de la Cruz to activate emergency financial assistance for vulnerable residents who have been impacted by storms and flooding. Last year, in partnership with the Office of Equity and Department of Emergency Management, our office submitted a budget request for $2M to help communities recover from future disasters. Fifth District Director Leo Chyi drafted and coordinated all of our budget requests; during budget hearings, we received unanimous support for this initiative.
What this means is that, starting tomorrow, our West County initiative to pre-plan for disasters will help our communities weather the financial impacts of these storms! In other words, there is now money available to assist moderate-income residents who were impacted by power outages, floods, evacuations, and tree falls. This funding is accessed by calling 2-1-1. Operators will pre-screen residents and then refer them to local community-based organizations to determine eligibility and receive direct financial assistance when they need it most.
Here are more details about the program:
Recovery Support Centers are being stood up in place of a traditional Local Assistance Center model because the storm damage has not yet triggered state and federal funding thresholds. Federal Individual Assistance support may be available, pending FEMA approval. Small business loans are also pending. There is a possibility some California counties more heavily impacted by the storms, will receive Federal assistance, while others will not.
Because of this uncertainty and the immediate need for assistance for residents, the County is launching a pilot program with local non-profit organizations to open two Recovery Support Centers to ensure an equitable recovery for communities that have been disproportionately impacted by economic loss. These impacts include damage to homes and vehicles; inability to work resulting in lost wages; lack of childcare due to school closures; expenses for food replacement, spoilage and loss; fuel and potable water.
In this model, the county will leverage local relationships through Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD) to identify and target direct disbursement of emergency financial assistance funds and other social services to historically underserved and the most vulnerable community members.
There will be no direct financial distribution at the recovery support centers. You must call 2-1-1 first. COAD will distribute the funds directly through their member community based organizations or fiscal sponsors. Expedited distribution of these resources will significantly enhance the long-term physical, behavioral, and economic health of these individuals.
In an effort to be more direct and intentional with recovery efforts, a screening process will be implemented. In order to qualify for emergency financial assistance individuals must meet the qualifications below:
- Applicant had to be impacted by the rainstorm including power outage, evacuation warning, flooding, road closures, loss of wages, additional expenses OR
- Were displaced from one’s normal permanent residence as a result of the rainstorm, AND
- The individual must be income eligible.
Additional eligibility information:
- Moderate Income Status: Income at or below 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI)
- Example: Family of four requires an income of $71,280 or less.
- If the household currently receives financial assistance to support daily living
- Example: Receives Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or has a Section 8 Housing Voucher
- 80% AMI and proof of having experienced unemployment, experienced increased food or housing insecurity as a result of flooding emergency/rainstorm.
Please note: While 2-1-1 will do the initial screening, they will not verify income levels for eligibility. That will be done at the Recovery Center.
The COAD and county will utilize the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) intake tool which takes applicants through a series of intake eligibility questions to ensure the resident has not been able to access any other disaster assistance or insurance. Staff are working to align documentation requirements, and eligibility with existing programs (e.g., CURA, Undocufund) to the fullest extent possible.
- Any individuals, regardless of financial eligibility, will be able to access county and community partner agencies and apply for other assistance at the two Recovery Support Centers planned for Guerneville and Healdsburg areas.
- This effort puts into practice lessons learned during COVID-19 testing and vaccine equity efforts, as well as feedback from COAD and CBO partners to ensure that information about these targeted resources are shared through non-traditional channels, including promotora and CBO communication networks, as well as Spanish and indigenous-language media outlets.
- In addition to offering potential financial assistance, the Recovery Support Centers will also offer services and resources from county and non-profit partners, as well as other COAD members activated for this disaster.
Community organizations activated during disasters including:
- Catholic Charities, Santa Rosa
- West County Community Services
- River to Coast Children’s Services
- Nuestra Communidad
- Corazon Healdsburg
- Sonoma County Department of Health Services
- Environmental Health - water quality testing
- Behavioral Health - mental health support
- Interdepartmental multidisciplinary team - providing wrap around services
- Sonoma County Human Services Department - eligibility specialists
- State Employment Development Department (Monday-Tuesday)
To review eligibility requirements for financial assistance, call 2-1-1. Phone and text services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and available in 150 languages.
**Please note that I am acutely aware of the geographic isolation of North Coast residents, and the severe windstorm impacts born by that area. We have relayed this to the EOC, and recognize the challenges North Coast residents would have in accessing services in Guerneville or Healdsburg.
Direct outreach to impacted North Coast individuals and families will be taking place through the local school system and affordable housing providers. North Coast residents in need are encouraged to call 2-1-1.