By Shiloh Wallack
On February 6, 2023, Ricardo Lara, Commissioner of the California Department of Insurance (DOI), issued a press release regarding a public forum to discuss the federal resources available to those impacted by natural disasters and any plans for aid moving forward. Natural disasters such as wildfires, earthquakes, and hurricanes have historically affected communities and individuals. Examples include the Camp Fire, which affected Paradise, California, and surrounding areas in 2018, and the more recent widespread wildfires that swept across California in 2020 and 2021. Commissioner Lara and U.S. Senator Alex Padilla hosted this forum in the wake of the winter storms that have affected California’s coast. Senator Padilla said, “Californians have battled relentless rainstorms, flooding, and landslides that damaged infrastructure and property in communities throughout the state, and most tragically, cost 22 people their lives. That’s why it’s important for Californians to know that after this winter’s storms, assistance is available to help them recover.”
One of the primary issues addressed during the forum was the outline of federal resources available to Californians. Two federal agencies were explicitly mentioned during the forum: (1) The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which offers a variety of assistance programs, including disaster housing assistance, crisis counseling, and disaster unemployment assistance, and (2) the Small Business Administration (SBA) which provides disaster loans to help small businesses recover from the effects of natural disasters. Furthermore, the forum directed Californians’ attention to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)—under the guise of FEMA—which provides insurance coverage for any damage caused by floods. This specific program is available to homeowners, renters, and businesses, offering coverage for up to $250,000 per home and $500,000 per business.
Commissioner Lara’s primary concern in the aftermath of these storms is ensuring that insurance companies are adequately prepared to respond to future disasters, including having adequate resources and staffing in place. Commissioner Lara touched on the importance of improving California’s overall disaster response system, including streamlining the insurance claims process and making it easier for individuals and businesses to access the resources they need. In addition, he plans on working alongside FEMA and the SBA to ensure that California fully utilizes the resources available to help those impacted by natural disasters. “Communities across our state are still picking up the pieces, reclaiming the sense of safety they lost in the storms—and the reality is that recovering from a natural disaster is a marathon, not a sprint,” said Lara. He also discussed the need for increased investment in disaster resilience and mitigation measures, such as better building codes, fireproofing measures, and early warning systems.
More specifically, disaster housing assistance from FEMA can provide temporary housing for those who have lost their homes, allowing them to start the recovery process. In addition, disaster loans provided by the SBA can help small businesses recover financially by providing financial assistance for repair and rebuilding efforts.
Californians looking for more information on resources available to help during the recovery process can visit Senator Padilla’s Disaster Resource page for more information.