2017 California Wildfires Recovery Program
In the fall of 2017 a series of devastating wildfires scorched over 500,000 acres in Northern and Southern California. Following the wildfires, heavy rain set off a deadly debris flow affecting a 30-square mile area scarred by the Thomas Fire. Today, with damage across 14 counties, many Californians are continuing to recover and the American Red Cross is delivering additional help and support.
The Red Cross is using donated dollars to provide financial assistance to households that need extra help and may also provide grants for community-based recovery services in the future.
Financial Assistance for Households
In California, the Red Cross is providing financial assistance for households in need of recovery support and whose homes experienced major damage or were destroyed by the 2017 wildfires or debris flow.
Major damage is indicated by a dwelling which is not currently habitable due to a substantial failure of structural elements such as floors, walls or foundation, but which can be made habitable with repairs.
A home that is destroyed is one where the dwelling is currently uninhabitable due to the total loss of the structure or complete failure to major structural components, and which cannot be made habitable without extensive repairs that would prove to be too costly.
There are two paths to accessing Red Cross recovery assistance and the eligibility criteria are the same for everyone. The Red Cross is not accepting applications for assistance at its offices.
In the first pathway, the Red Cross is offering recovery assistance directly to the thousands of California households whose homes were inspected and confirmed by Cal Fire to have been destroyed or sustained major damage from the 2017 wildfires and debris flow. We are taking this step to provide recovery assistance as quickly as possible by using information already collected and verified by the Red Cross or FEMA.
Eligible households include those whose:
- Primary, pre-disaster residence was located in one of the 11 federally declared or 3 state declared counties (proof that the applicant is the legal owner or lessee of the residence is required verified by the Red Cross or FEMA); and
- Primary, pre-disaster residence was destroyed or sustained major damage in the wildfires or debris flow (verified by Cal Fire); and
- Head of household communicates that recovery assistance is needed and confirms mailing address in response to Red Cross email or text message.
The Red Cross is sending personalized email and text messages asking these verified households if recovery assistance is needed. Households must respond to the personalized email or text sent directly to them as indicated in the message.
As part of this outreach, the Red Cross may ask that people upload identification documents in order to process applications for financial assistance.
Documentation to validate identity can include U.S. or foreign passport, government issued driver’s license, government issued ID, military ID or dependents card, permanent resident card, and consular identification.
The Red Cross takes the privacy and security of personal records very seriously and will ensure confidentiality throughout the application process.
Personal information stays confidential; documents and data remain private at all times.
The Red Cross will not ask for social security or bank account information to affected households.
The second pathway is for California households that are not contacted directly by the Red Cross but whose homes were destroyed or sustained major damage. These households must apply for Red Cross financial assistance by working through a local disaster case manager.
Eligible households include those whose:
- Primary, pre-disaster residence was located in one of the 11 federally declared or 3 state declared counties (proof that the applicant is the legal owner or lessee of the residence is required); and
- Primary, pre-disaster residence was destroyed or sustained major damage in the wildfires or debris flow (verification of damage is required); and
- Head of household is working with a Disaster Case Manager to address wildfire or debris flow-related recovery needs.
A Disaster Case Manager will assess the disaster-related needs of each household, evaluate eligibility for financial assistance from the Red Cross and other sources, complete an application with the household, and submit the application to the Red Cross.
After the Disaster Case Manager submits a complete application, the Red Cross will review all of the documentation. Once the application is validated and approved, the Red Cross will arrange a payment to the household by one of several means of electronic funds transfer.
People in Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake and Napa Counties who need a Disaster Case Manager can contact Catholic Charities at 833-513-6977 or email@example.com.
In San Diego, contact the Regional Community Recovery Team at CRTSD.org or by calling 888-450-8564.
In Ventura County, dial 2-1-1 (local call), 800-339-9597 (Ventura 211 from outside Ventura county), or visit http://www.211ventura.org/disaster-info. Look under “Case Management”.
People in other affected counties can call 1-800-RED CROSS and select option 4 for assistance.
Red Cross financial assistance is not a loan and will not need to be repaid. All Red Cross services, including financial assistance, are available to those in need regardless of citizenship status, nationality, race, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, class or political opinions. The Red Cross is a charity, not a government agency, and people do not need to be American citizens to receive our help.
In the future, the Red Cross also plans to support community-based recovery efforts through strategic grants to non-profit organizations with a strong track record of providing services.
The Red Cross may support organizations addressing the following areas of need: home repair and rebuilding; behavioral health services, with a focus on the needs of children and youth; recovery-supporting services, such as Long-Term Recovery Committees, financial counseling and programs that assist people with disabilities, the elderly, and underserved communities.