From Napa Valley Register: Local relief fund continues aiding quake victims

March 5  • 

No one expects to discover they live on top of an earthquake fault line, but that’s exactly what happened to Napan Tim Whitlock this past summer when his home on Twin Oaks Drive in Browns Valley was severely damaged in the Aug. 24 quake.

The temblor “literally ripped the house right down the middle and twisted it clockwise about 8 degrees,” Whitlock said. In the process, the west side of the home moved 8 inches north.

Whitlock said the damage to his two-story home has exceeded $400,000. The house had to be lifted six feet off the ground to repair the foundation. He does not have earthquake insurance, he said, and money to pay for the repairs has come out of his retirement savings.

A local disaster relief fund was also able to help him repair his home.

The Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund gave Whitlock one $10,000 grant and he is likely to receive a second grant for the same amount. Initially without a computer and living out of a suitcase, just compiling the paperwork and completing the application process was a struggle, he said. Receiving a second grant has also required more documentation and work.

But, “I am very, very fortunate,” said Whitlock. “We had money in the bank. But there are a lot of people that aren’t in the same situation we are and are really desperate,” he said.

In the six months since Napa’s Aug. 24 quake, the Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund has approved grants totaling $8.1 million to nonprofits to help quake victims.

The fund was established with an initial $10 million grant from the Napa Valley Vintners. Other donors raised that number to $10.9 million.

A total of $3.2 million of that $8.1 million has been delivered so far to quake victims in the form of direct financial assistance to households and businesses. The balance has been granted to local nonprofit partners to allocate to locals.

Even though FEMA and the SBA closed applications for assistance at the end of December, the community fund remains available to those affected by the quake. The deadline to apply for aid is March 31.

The fund, overseen by the Napa Valley Community Foundation, is meant to be a safety net for those who fall through the federal aid cracks, said a spokesperson.

Today, “Well over 1,000 Napa County households have received direct financial assistance for recovery or rebuilding,” and 11,500 residents have received counseling, meals, re-housing, case management and other services, said Terence Mulligan, president of the foundation.

By coordinating with federal aid agencies, the fund has helped leverage almost $45 million in additional government grants and low-interest loans, Mulligan said.

While a $20,000 grant is “just a drop in the bucket” towards Whitlock’s $400,000 in damages, “for those that don’t have anything, it might be all the difference in the world between them leaving Napa or staying,” said Whitlock.

Whitlock “absolutely” recommends that anyone affected by the quake apply for aid. “It’s not government help. It’s help from the community. That’s the most important thing,” he said. “I am more than happy to contribute when we are back on our feet.”

“We’re going to take care of as many people who qualify that we can,” said Mulligan.

But the fund won’t be drained completely, he said. While he’s not sure how much will be saved, “I do anticipate we’ll have resources left in the fund,” he said. The remainder will be used “to make investments that make the community more resilient” in the next disaster, he said.

Initial disaster relief fund grants were capped at $10,000 for residents and $15,000 for businesses. The foundation later raised these amounts to $20,000 for residents and $25,000 for small businesses. People who have received grants based on the previous caps can apply for more money.

Applicants for disaster relief fund grants must show that the SBA turned them down for a loan or that they have damages exceeding their SBA loan. Small businesses owners turned down for disaster loans by private lenders or unable to borrow enough money may also apply.

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