En un vecindario al oeste de la pequeña comunidad de Porterville en el condado de Tulare, las calles, las casas y los vehículos se han inundado debido a los niveles históricos de lluvia en el Valle de San Joaquín. Jesse Vad/SJV Agua

What's at stake?

Flood victims in Tulare County can now apply for direct federal relief using FEMA's disaster asssistance form.

President Joe Biden accepted Gov. Gavin Newsom’s request for a major disaster declaration on Monday, opening the doors for direct federal aid to flood victims in seven California counties, including Tulare. 

Residents can now apply for direct federal assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster assistance form, if their homes flooded in March. Renters are also eligible for help with repair costs to their apartment.

Besides home repairs, residents can also get financial assistance for repairing a damaged vehicle and for hotel or motel expenses, if floods rendered their home uninhabitable. 

FEMA assistance only covers damage to uninsured property, however, and if residents have homeowners insurance or flood insurance, federal aid can only be applied to damages not covered by those two payors.

“These programs are not a substitute for insurance, and they cannot compensate for all losses that have been caused by the flood disaster — but they help,” said Carrie Monteiro, a spokesperson with the Tulare County Office of Emergency Services. “The assistance is intended to help meet the basic needs and supplements for disaster recovery efforts.”

Tulare County officials said flood victims should first report personal property damage through its county form, which would be used to make the case for additional relief dollars, Monteiro said.

In addition to helping individual flood victims, Biden’s aid package includes repairs to public property and infrastructure for four counties, including Tulare, as well as ongoing funds in the case of more flooding, in anticipation of the historic snowpack in the southern Sierra Nevada melting. 

“As the historic snowpack begins to melt,” Newsom wrote in his request for aid last week, “it is anticipated that extended advanced planning will be necessary to respond to additional flood threats that may not be realized initially and could continue to be present during the spring snowmelt.”

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Omar Shaikh Rashad is the government accountability reporter for Fresnoland.

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