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San Benito
February 27, 2024

Panetta: FEMA OKs shelter program for fire survivors

Courtesy of Congressman Jimmy Panetta’s Office:

FEMA has approved a 30-day extension of its non-congregate shelter program for CZU Lightning Complex Fire survivors in Santa Cruz County.  This approval came one day after Congressman Panetta (D-Carmel Valley) and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) requested the agency to expeditiously review and approve California’s request for a 30-day extension of the shelter program.  The FEMA non-congregate shelter program provides emergency housing assistance to those impacted by recent wildfires while adhering to COVID-19 safety protocol, keeping survivors distanced from those not in their households to prevent the spread of illness.  This is the second shelter extension the Representatives secured for CZU Lightning Complex Fire survivors since October.

“As the Central Coast continues to recover from the wildfires amid an ongoing pandemic, it is our duty in Congress to ensure that the federal government continues to provide the proper resources for the victims of these natural disasters” said Congressman Panetta.  “I’m honored to again partner with Congresswoman Eshoo to secure federal housing assistance for our constituents during these tough times.  Together, we will continue to do our job as federal representatives to ensure that the people of our home have the necessary support so that they can get back on their feet and back to their daily lives.”

Read the Representatives’ letter to Director Fenton here or below:

Dear Director Fenton, We write to request full and fair consideration of the State of California’s recent requests for emergency housing assistance for fire survivors in Santa Cruz County. Specifically, we ask that you expeditiously review and approve the State’s request for a 30-day extension to the non-congregate shelter program, in addition to the State’s request for assistance through the Direct Housing Program. These temporary housing solutions will allow individuals who lost their homes in the CZU Lightning Complex Fire to retain housing security as they navigate the various FEMA and county-level processes to ensure longer-term recovery and rebuilding.

Currently, nearly half of the CZU Lightning Complex Fire survivors may be able to return to their homes within 30 days. An extension of the non-congregate shelter program, therefore, would allow a significant number of evacuees sufficient time to return safely to their homes without a gap in shelter. Case management resources could then be focused on those with the most damage to their property and in most need of support.

Similarly, FEMA assistance through the Direct Housing Program would ensure that vulnerable individuals and families have access to temporary housing units as they work with FEMA, Cal OES, local officials, and volunteers to find permanent housing solutions and execute their disaster recovery plans.

We are grateful for FEMA’s assistance to Santa Cruz County during this particularly devastating wildfire season, through both the Fire Management Assistance Grant for the CZU Lightning Complex Fire and the August/September Major Disaster Declaration. Given the continued impact of this fire on County residents, we respectfully ask that you grant the State’s request for continued non-congregate sheltering and Direct Housing, to ensure our communities can recover with resilience. 


Jimmy Panetta

Anna G. Eshoo