PAJARO—President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for seven counties on Monday, freeing up federal money for hundreds of people whose lives were upended by the storms and flooding.
Storm and flood victims can now call the Federal Emergency Management Agency to file a claim to get funds to help them rebuild and pay for expenses incurred during evacuation and subsequent living expenses.
Before they call FEMA at 800.621.3362, those with insurance must first file a claim, says spokeswoman Tiana Suber.
Property owners should also document all damages, and take photos, she says.
“It can be difficult and hard to do it all, especially if you’ve gone through a traumatic process, so our people will be there to help,” she says.
The Small Business Administration, meanwhile, now stands ready to offer low-interest loans to businesses that were damaged.
For information, visit disasterloanassistance.sba.gov or call 800.659.2955.
But even as many people breathe a sigh of relief at the awaited federal funding, hundreds of people cannot yet return to their apartments and rental units that are still not inhabitable due to mud and water damage.
And because the flood damaged hundreds of acres of farmland, the people who work there—which covers a majority of the evacuees—are temporarily out of work and unable to pay rent.
It is unclear how many people are facing eviction, or are otherwise affected by the sudden loss of housing due to the storm.
In Monterey County, nearly 600 households have so far come into the center requesting housing, financial assistance and help from FEMA, says Communications Director Nicholas Pasculli.
The Monterey County Board of Supervisors on March 28 took a step to addressing this when they unanimously approved an eviction moratorium that protects renters, small businesses and mobile homeowners from eviction through the end of August.
The moratorium does not relieve renters of their obligation to pay rent, and does not stop the eviction process, which is protected by state law. But it can prevent the eviction from occurring.
But such a measure is merely a stop-gap solution for a wide-ranging and long-term problem that affects landlords—who must still pay property taxes as they contemplate extensive repairs—and for their tenants.
Worse, the flood has reduced the housing stock in an already tight market.
Many people who have neither the means to pay rent or fight their landlord are contemplating “self-evictions,” or simply stopping paying and not returning, says Community Bridges CEO Ray Cancino.
“These folks don’t have another option,” he said. “Most of them will not be able to re-inhabit their home because it needs to be fixed and rebuilt.”
In the meantime, landlords and tenants want to move in, Cancino says.
“They want to go back home,” he says. “So we’re constantly realizing that individuals need additional support to ensure that they get back into their house.”
That’s why the organizations—and other nonprofit organizations—are offering training and education for both tenants and landlords.
Community Bridges will offer workshops for both tenants and landlords on April 13 and 20 from 3-7pm. For information, call Sylvia at 724.2997, extension 213.
“We’re trying to make sure people know their rights,” Cancino said. “We’re trying to work with both landlords and tenants. In a lot of these circumstances they are going to need each other in order to be successful in remodeling and remediating the housing situation in Pajaro.”
And there is a lot of information that many people may not know.
For example, landlords whose units have sustained more than $10,000 in damages can contact their county assessor’s office to ask for a reassessment, which would mean a temporary reduction in their property tax bill.
In addition, security deposits cannot be kept for the repair work due to storms, since that doesn’t fall under the stringent standards of when landlords may keep it.
Community Bridges has so far trained more than 85 households over four sessions, and has also provided information to a handful of landlords.
But even with the help now available to the flood victims, Cancino says it’s important to both support the rebuilding process, but also to look to temporary measures such as trailers.
“There is an immediate need and the best way to address that is to expand the existing mobile home parks that have the infrastructure to accommodate more families,” he says.
Cancino also hopes to work with state legislators to ease ADU regulations and to create more farmworker housing.
“We need every housing opportunity to be rebuilt, or else we’re just getting further and further into the housing crisis, and we can’t afford to go back,” he says.