The disaster recovery open house meeting that took place in Maxwell last week, spearheaded by the Colusa County Planning Department, drew a number of affected residents but did not get much response in terms of requests for individual assistance.
Assistance is available through the US Small Business Administration, whereby flood victims are eligible to receive low- or no-interest loans to help them recover from the damages, if they qualify.
Janice Bell, Colusa County Office of Emergency Services Technician, said the minimum qualifications for the low- and no-interest loans are unclear, and that state and federal support are not needed for the individual assistance programs.
To date, only nine individual residents have applied for individual assistance, but that number must grow to 25 in order for anyone to receive assistance.
“We need to have 25 people, either homeowners or businesses, sign up for the program or no one gets any individual assistance at all,” Bell told the Board of Supervisors at their meeting on Tuesday. Bell later added that residents who sign on for the program are not obligated to continue to pursue a loan.
“I don’t think the community was aware of that before, as it was difficult to convey that in the open house forum.”
Bell added that rental homes can count for two individuals, both as a home and a business, and that residents who were flooded in Maxwell as well as northern parts of Williams are eligible for the loans. She said that representatives of the planning department and OES have been going door to door since the meeting in an effort to bolster the number of requests for assistance.
Some residents have been leery of the process, however, and hesitant to let inspectors from two different agencies into their residences to assess the damage.
“I don’t know what we can say to make it easier,” Bell said. “…But we didn’t get any doors slammed in our face, which is good.”
Based on a aerial photo, it was initially estimated that there were a total of about 64 houses that had water in them as a result of the flooding in Maxwell, but that has since been revised to about 30.
“That limits our numbers to meet our minimum. We are hopefully going to be able to get more people to sign up for our individual assistance program today. Otherwise we are going to have to back up and tell these people that we can’t help them because their community isn’t asking for assistance,” Bell said.
Bell told the board that a federal damage assessment came in last week, and FEMA determined that the damage in Maxwell was great enough to meet the minimum qualification for its Public Assistance grant program.
“We need to have federal assistance for the Public Infrastructure or our Public Assistance. We are still waiting for that, and there’s no indication when that might come,” Bell said. “It’s on the governor’s desk to ask for his support, and he will in turn ask for the federal support.”
The FEMA grant money will go toward repairs at the Sites JPA Building – also a Colusa County Sheriff’s Office sub-station – and Maxwell Elementary School.
“There were very few other public buildings that received damage. The road department is working on a report, but there is substantial infrastructure damage to roads, bridges, et cetera,” Bell said. “That is also something we need to consider for reimbursement.”