Federal aid is on the way. 

President Joe Biden approved a Major Disaster Declaration for Santa Cruz County on Jan. 14, following the damage caused by a series of massive atmospheric rivers that have ravaged the state since the storm made landfall on Dec. 27. At least 20 people across the state have died as a result of the extreme weather, including one in Santa Cruz on Dec. 31. 

The declaration releases a wide range of federal assistance programs and emergency funds for people and public infrastructure. 

Biden’s approval comes on the heels of Governor Gavin Newsom’s request for Biden to issue an expedited Major Disaster Declaration on Jan. 12. Newsom also declared a state of emergency on Jan. 4, mobilizing the California National Guard and Caltrans to address storm damage and recovery. 

Although Biden had originally declared a state of emergency in the state of California on Jan. 9, his newest declaration of a major disaster provides long-term federal recovery programs. 

Congressman Jimmy Panetta, whose district includes most of Santa Cruz County, along with Senator Alex Padilla, co-authored a bipartisan letter from the California Senate and Congressional delegation to call on the Biden administration to approve California’s request for a major disaster declaration. 

“The magnitude of these weather systems has placed a severe strain on California’s resources and its ability to swiftly protect public health and safety,” the letter stated. “Although the state has invested more than $738 million in flood protection programs in the last two years alone, it has been and continues to be increasingly difficult for the state and local governments to obtain the necessary resources to respond to the devastation caused by these storms.” 

Individuals and households will be able to receive funds from the Federal Emergency Disaster Administration with the activation of the major disaster declaration. Those eligible can receive grants for temporary housing, home repairs, and low-cost loans to cover uninsured property that was damaged or destroyed in the storms.  

Santa Cruz businesses, nonprofits, homeowners, and renters will be eligible for disaster assistance from the Small Business Administration in the form of low-interest loans.