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Santa Cruz County to receive nearly $18 million for COVID-19 disaster expenses; still pushing for other disaster reimbursement

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KION-TV) - Santa cruz county is set to receive over $17.7 million in disaster reimbursement from FEMA related to the county’s COVID-19 response.

While the county says it is a welcome, they add it’s only a drop in the bucket from the full disaster reimbursement they’re seeking.

Since 2017, Santa Cruz County has seen multiple federally declared disasters, from wildfires, severe storms, and the pandemic. While the county says they’ve spent more than $250 million on their disaster response, the process to get that reimbursed from FEMA has been challenging.

“We have $125 million in outstanding claims to the federal government for a number of disasters from 2017 forward. There have been eight federally declared disasters in Santa Cruz County since then, one of which was, of course covid," Santa Cruz County Public Information Officer Jason Hoppin said.

The partial reimbursement of COVID spending is specifically for the steps Santa cruz county took to provide shelter options for high-risk people experiencing homelessness. Still the county says there are still numerous outstanding disaster claims.

"It's just pace, it's just trying to get some attention on your claims. Some of the requirements that go into the claims, there's a lot of red tape," Hoppin said.

Hoppin points to federal highway reimbursements which typically is fulfilled within one to two years. However, he adds the slow pace with FEMA is posing challenges to addressing other disasters such as severe weather.

"We need to look at new sources of funding to bring more money into the system so that we can go ahead and make those changes and make our community more resilient in the face of these climate disasters," Hoppin said.

In regards to the new COVID-related reimbursement, U.S. Rep. Jimmy Panetta said, "it also is an important step forward in our work to keep pressure on FEMA to expedite reimbursement of additional outstanding Santa Cruz County disaster expenditures”

Article Topic Follows: Santa Cruz

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Austin Castro

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