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Disaster Declaration Frees Up Federal $$
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Scenes like this were common in and around the Escalon area this week, with the series of winter storms continuing to dump rain on the region over the last several days. Here, a portion of the roadway at the corner of Van Allen and Blackmore was under water on Monday morning, Jan. 16. Corey Rogers/The Times

State officials announced over the weekend that the White House has approved California’s request for a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to support the state’s emergency response to ongoing storm impacts including flooding, mudslides and landslides in communities across the state.

“California is grateful for President Biden’s swift approval of this critical support to communities reeling from these ongoing storms,” said Governor Gavin Newsom, who met with evacuated residents in Merced County on Saturday, Jan. 14 and surveyed damage in the area. “We’ll continue to work in lockstep with local, state and federal partners to help keep Californians safe and make sure our communities have the resources and assistance they need to rebuild and recover.”

The Presidential Major Disaster Declaration will help Californians in impacted counties through eligibility for several programs and supports, and includes public assistance to help state, tribal and local governments with ongoing emergency response and recovery costs and hazard mitigation. The declaration makes federal funding available to affected individuals in the counties of Merced, Sacramento and Santa Cruz. Additional impacted counties may be included once storm conditions allow state, local and federal officials to safely assess the scope of damage.

Earlier, President Biden approved the Governor’s request for a Presidential Emergency Declaration to bolster state, local and tribal government storm response efforts. Governor Newsom activated the State Operations Center to its highest level and this past week had proclaimed a state of emergency statewide.

Amid ongoing storms and flooding, the state and its partners are working quickly to initiate recovery efforts and help Californians return home as soon as it is safe to do so. Work is underway to remove hazardous waste and clear debris and there are teams on the ground conducting damage assessments documenting the extent of the losses so that the state can maximize its requests for federal aid.

The Governor also announced $202 million in new investments for long-term flood prevention proposed in the upcoming state budget. The Newsom Administration has invested $738 million in flood protection programs in just the last two years, including flood protection projects, infrastructure maintenance and weather forecasting. Combined with federal funding, California has funded and delivered more than 300 miles of urban and 120 miles of non-urban levees improved since 2007; 88 flood protection projects spanning system wide, urban and rural upgrades completed since 2016, including crucial improvements to Folsom Dam, providing increased protection for 440,000 people.

An additional $202 million was included in the Governor’s Jan. 10 budget proposal for new flood investments to protect urban areas, improve levees in the Delta region and support projects in the Central Valley.