Federal disaster aid is now available to California wildfire survivors in seven counties including those who suffered loses in the 115,796-acre Bobcat Fire under an Oct. 16 federal disaster declaration.
As of Thursday the Bobcat Fire was 95% contained. The fire, which erupted on Sept. 6 in the Angeles National Forest, has destroyed 171 structures, including 87 residences, and damaged 47 structures, including 28 residences.
Full containment is estimated for Oct 30.
The Trump administration initially refused to grant California the emergency declaration. But President Donald Trump reversed the decision on Oct. 16 after appeals from Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and California Republicans including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Mike Garcia.
The declaration is referred to by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as Disaster 4569.
Monetary awards may help eligible survivors with financial assistance that includes rent, home repair, home replacement and other disaster-related needs such as childcare, medical and dental expenses, the agency said.
Prior to applying for disaster aid survivors are required to contact their insurance company and file a claim for the disaster-caused damage. Take photographs or video of the damage and keep all receipts related to home repair.
There are three ways to apply: online at www.disasterassistance.gov; by downloading and using the FEMA app on a smartphone or tablet; or by calling the FEMA helpline at 800-621-3362 (TTY 800-462-7585) between 7 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. PDT.
You will need to provide the following information:
• Social Security number.
• Insurance policy information.
• Address of the damaged primary dwelling.
• A description of disaster-caused damage and losses.
• Current mailing address.
• Current telephone number.
• Total household annual income.
• Routing and account number of your checking or savings account (for direct transfer of funds).
You may then create a personal account at disasterassistance.gov to stay in touch. To do so:
• Click the green Check Status button at bottom of disasterassistance.gov
• Click the blue Create Account button at bottom of page.
• Enter your date of birth and Social Security number, which you provided when registering.
• Answer four security questions that are generated from public record data to verify your identity.
• Create a user ID and password.
• Enter an email address. FEMA will send a temporary PIN to it within 24 hours. Follow the instructions in the email to finish creating your account.
If you are unable to upload your documents, mail them to FEMA at P.O. Box 10055, Hyattsville MD 20782-8055 or fax them to 800-827-8112.
During COVID-19, inspections of damaged/destroyed properties will be conducted by phone. Remote assessments are comparable to traditional, in-person inspections and can expedite recovery assistance, based on eligibility. For security purposes, the inspector will verify your identity by asking a series of qualifying questions and provide you with the first four digits of your application, the agency said.
If you report that you cannot safely live in your home, a FEMA inspector will contact you by phone to ask about the type and extent of damage. Survivors whose homes suffered minimal damage and can live in them will not automatically be scheduled for a home inspection but may request one.
Some aid is available without an inspection, including grants for childcare, transportation, medical, dental, funeral expenses, moving and storage assistance.
Small Business Administration assistance
Some applicants for federal aid will be referred to the US Small Business Administration. Before FEMA can consider giving a survivor grants for repair or replacement of personal property and vehicles or moving and storage expenses, the person must apply to SBA for a loan and be turned down. Fill out an application at https://disasterloanassistance.sba.gov. You do not have to take a loan if offered one.
Survivors can find out more by contacting the SBA’s Virtual Disaster Loan Outreach Center, which helps homeowners, renters and business owners answer questions about SBA’s disaster loan program, explain the application process and help each person complete an electronic loan application.
The center is open from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week and can be reached by email at FOCWAssistance@sba.gov or by calling 800-659-2955.