A donation by Union Pacific Railroad will help Community Bridges continue its work of helping Pajaro residents recover from the flood that wreaked havoc on the community in March.
Union Pacific Assistant Vice President of Public Affairs for the Western Region Adrian Guerrero says that the floods also damaged the company’s switching yard in Pajaro.
About half of the 100 employees who work there live in the Pajaro Valley, Guerrero says.
As Union Pacific employees addressed that damage, company officials saw the work that Community Bridges was doing for the residents.
“We have to protect our employees,” he says. “We have to protect our operations. But here is an organization that is protecting its populations, the citizens.”
Community Bridges spokesman Tony Nuñez says that the donation will go toward providing financial assistance for the individuals and families whose lives were upended by the flood.
Monterey County officials say that seven single-family residences were destroyed, and that 446 were damaged.
Victims will get from $1,450 to $2,750, depending on the size of their families and the level of damage their residences sustained. Those funds are part of Community Bridges’ Wave 2 funds.
For Wave 1, the victims received $500 to help them get through the first few days of displacement.
Wave 3, which will commence in July, will bring further aid to families in the long-term recovery group currently being established by Monterey County.
“Today is a moment to celebrate the continued contributions of our community to help the people in Pajaro, but it’s also a moment to remind ourselves that there is still more to do,” Nuñez says.
Residents who already received Wave 1 assistance do not need to reapply for Wave 2, Nuñez says.
Community Bridges CEO Ray Cancino said that 65 families who are still unable to return home are temporarily sheltered in hotels.
“It really takes a community to come together and to help support those most in need,” Cancino says. “We’re just so thankful to Union Pacific and their leadership to invest in our community here, and to invest in the families that are still impacted in Pajaro.”
Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo said that the newly forged relationship with the rail company will benefit long-term plans to build a passenger rail line in Santa Cruz County.
“The future of this community is intertwined with Union Pacific, because we have a lot of plans not only to improve our bike and our roads and transit, but also rail is a very important part of Pajaro’s future,” Alejo says. “So we look forward not only to partnering today in the relief for the people and businesses of Pajaro, but also in the future to really uplift this community and bring them the resources and investment they need.”
Working with other local nonprofits, Community Bridges has so far distributed more than $800,000 in direct economic assistance to Pajaro residents who have been impacted by the recent devastating floods.
The organization has also provided more than $500,000 in indirect assistance through community outreach, political advocacy, essential items and supplies, free cleanup tools, and educational sessions regarding tenant and landlord rights, FEMA assistance, and insurance applications.
These funds come thanks to thousands of donations to the Community Foundation Santa Cruz County, Community Foundation for Monterey County, and Community Bridges’ Pajaro Flood Relief fund.
To qualify for Community Bridges’ economic assistance, a person must:
• Fall at or below 80% of Area Median Income and/or 200% or less of Federal Poverty Limit
• Have their home listed as damaged by the County of Monterey’s Damage Assessment Map.
• Only residents whose homes have been red, orange and yellow tagged on the map will receive assistance in waves two and three
• Show proof of damages
• Show proof that they live in Pajaro
• For the second and third waves of assistance, a person must have also applied for assistance through FEMA and submitted a claim through their insurance (if they qualify for federal assistance and have insurance)
Pajaro residents are encouraged to apply for assistance by visiting La Manzana Community Resources at 521 Main St., Suite Y, in Watsonville from 9am to 4:30pm, Monday through Friday.