Nov 23, 2014

From Napa Valley Register: The ongoing process of rebuilding

November 23, 2014 • 

While much of the region has moved on, the truth is that the Aug. 24 earthquake is still a daily fact of life for many residents and business owners in and around Napa (the Napa Valley Register among them).

That is why it is important to note that the Napa Valley Community Foundation is moving into its second, and more ambitious, phase of doling out relief money to people affected by the quake.

So far, the foundation has handed out about $2 million in immediate relief, money intended to help displaced families find new housing, or to replace broken household essentials, or even replace important food and medicine lost in the quake.

That leaves about $8.5 million left in the bank, funded mostly from the initial $10 million donation from the Napa Valley Vintners, but supplemented by smaller donations of all sizes, amounting to about $500,000.

This remaining money will go to what the foundation is calling the rebuilding phase: the point at which people start to physically repair their damaged homes and businesses.

Foundation Executive Director Terence Mulligan met with the Editorial Board last week to explain their approach. Since federal assistance was authorized in late October, the Foundation has sensibly decided to step back and let the federal government take the lead – it has more money and capacity than any local organization can muster. That means the Foundation will use its money as a sort of safety net or last resort for those Napa County residents who for some reason do not qualify for grants from Federal Emergency Management Agency or loans from the federal Small Business Administration.

In order to qualify for Foundation money, therefore, quake-affected residents need first to apply for federal assistance. This is a sensible policy to prevent duplication of effort and also to ensure that Napa County gets all of the federal assistance it needs.

So, if you are still suffering the physical effects of the quake, your first stop should be the integrated Local Assistance Center, at 301 First St., in Napa: visit in person or online at Napaquakeinfo.com. There, you will be directed to apply either for a FEMA grant or an SBA loan, available to both homeowners and businesses.

Initial reports we have received have been very positive on the speed and efficiency of the federal inspectors and payments, so we encourage everyone who suffered quake damage to apply.

There will, however, be cases where applicants are rejected by FEMA or SBA, and that’s where the Community Foundation comes in. Working with a variety of nonprofits, the foundation will try to help those who fall through the cracks in the federal system. There are separate programs for homeowners, business owners, and residents of mobile homes.

More details, including eligibility requirements, can be found at the Foundation’s website: napavalleycf.org/apply.

This phase of the relief operation should take several months, Mulligan told the board, and is likely to consume most of the remaining money in the relief fund.

After that, however, comes what may be the most important part of the process: planning for the next time this happens. Mulligan said the Foundation will use whatever money is left over to strengthen relationships among regional nonprofits and relief agencies, to help build the capacity within those organizations to respond to disasters of all kinds, from floods to fires to earthquakes.

That will be an important and worthwhile effort, making sure that Napa not only recovers from the Aug. 24 earthquake, but comes out stronger for it.

 

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