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February 9, 2023

As Biden visits, Bay Area reps plead for disaster aid

Santa Clara County not included in federal relief efforts

The Bay Area Congressional delegation—Rep. Jimmy Panetta (CA-19), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA-18), Rep. Anna Eshoo (CA-16) and Rep. Ro Khanna (CA-17)—wrote to President Joe Biden on Jan. 19 to request that relief for Santa Clara County be included in the Presidential Major Declaration for the State of California.

Biden has previously approved California Governor Gavin Newsom’s disaster declaration request, including public and individual support for Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties. Biden visited communities on the Central Coast Jan. 19, stopping at Capitola and Seacliff Beach.

Santa Clara County has experienced more than $27 million in total damages from the storms, including $17 million in damages to public infrastructure in San Jose alone. Valley Water, the local water district, has suffered $1.65 million in damages.

County operated roads and airports have sustained at least $6.7 million in damages, which is severely impacting access and emergency response capacities to several rural areas within Santa Clara County.

“As our local governments and agencies work to save lives and protect property, they need further assistance from the federal government,” the delegation—all Democrats—wrote. “Likewise, displaced families need assistance with housing, disaster-related expenses, hazard mitigation, and other essential Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) services. Amending your recent disaster declaration to include Santa Clara County would enable our constituents to access this much-needed federal assistance and put our communities on a faster path to recovery.”

The Presidential Disaster Declaration triggers the release of federal funds to help individuals and communities recover from the severe winter storms, flooding, landslides and mudslides that occurred beginning Dec. 27. The funds will be coordinated through the Federal Emergency Disaster Administration and can be used for assistance to individuals and households, emergency work and the repair and replacement of disaster-damaged facilities, debris removal and emergency protective measures, mitigation to prevent or reduce long term risk to life and property from natural hazards.

“We thank you for your recent approval of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s disaster declaration request, including public and individual support for Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Luis Obispo counties,” the congressional representatives wrote Biden. “However, Santa Clara County has also experienced major destruction of property and public infrastructure that necessitates federal support, to include public and individual assistance, as well as hazard mitigation assistance.”

They listed these damaged roads:

– Mines Road, a key access road for residents living in the San Antonio Valley, is completely washed out in two areas, forcing it to remain closed. With this road impassable, some residents are forced to take a detour of over an hour to get in and out of the area.

– San Antonio Road itself has significant damage as well, exacerbating the impacts of the Mines Road closure.

– Bear Creek Road in the county remains completely closed due to a sinkhole in the middle of the road and two other washouts.

“These closures and road impacts not only impact commutes, but also impact emergency response times for those communities and increase the length of hospital trips,” the representatives wrote.

“As our local governments and agencies work to save lives and protect property, they need further assistance from the federal government. Likewise, displaced families need assistance with housing, disaster-related expenses, hazard mitigation, and other essential FEMA services,” the letter concluded. 

This story originally appeared on sanjoseinside.com

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