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San Benito qualifies for FEMA aid

No assistance yet available for private property owners

Sandbags and materials are available for San Benito County residents at the City of Hollister public works yard on South Street (pictured) and other locations in the county. Photo: Chris Mora

The San Benito County Office of Emergency Services has been verbally notified by federal authorities that the county is eligible for public assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency due to recent winter storm damages. 

The amount of FEMA funding available to the local office is not determined, and funds will be released in the form of refunds after the county has completed certain storm-related repairs, San Benito County Public Information Officer Monica Leon said. 

Under FEMA’s public assistance program, the agency can provide up to 75% reimbursement for eligible costs, which may include emergency protective measures, debris removal, and infrastructure repairs or replacement that is necessary due to disaster-related damage, according to information presented at a recent San Benito County Board of Supervisors meeting. 

Public assistance from FEMA does not include funding for privately owned homes or structures that were affected by the disaster, according to county staff. 

Counties such as San Benito became eligible for FEMA public assistance after President Joe Biden issued a Major Disaster Declaration for the local jurisdiction in early January. 

Biden declared the disaster after a series of heavy rain storms pounded the Central Coast for several weeks starting in late December. In San Benito County, the storms resulted in scattered local flooding, road damages and closures, and the displacement of dozens of residents forced to evacuate their homes and businesses as floodwaters inundated their properties. Many of the displaced in San Benito County are located on Lovers Lane in the northern portion of the county. 

County officials announced on Jan. 27 that San Benito has qualified for FEMA Public Assistance. 

At the same time, however, the county learned from FEMA that it does not qualify for the federal agency’s individual assistance program. Individual assistance funds would have been available for people and families who suffered property losses due to the declared disaster.

As of Jan. 16, only three counties in California—Merced, Sacramento and Santa Cruz—had qualified for FEMA individual assistance due to the recent weather emergency, according to county staff. 

County officials also announced this week that it has opened a Disaster Resource Center for residents affected by the winter storms. The San Benito County Local Assistance Center is open at the Strada Verde office at 354 First St. in Hollister. The center “will have services available from state, county and community-based organizations,” Leon said. 

Residents can visit the local assistance center to learn how to get help for flood assistance and housing and rent assistance; ask questions about insurance; gain information on replacing vital records; and emergency help with immediate needs, including food, unemployment and more. 

The center will be open 4-7pm Feb. 2, 10am-5pm Feb. 3 and 2-6pm Feb. 4. Spanish translators will be on site. 

For comprehensive information about the county’s storm recovery and available resources, visit www.cosb.us/storminforecovery