Local leaders want federal aid for Santa Clara County residents who’ve been excluded from financial assistance after the recent storms.

With more than $50 million in damages countywide, state Sen. Dave Cortese and Assemblymember Gail Pellerin, along with local Congressmembers Jimmy Panetta, Ro Khanna, Anna Eshoo and Zoe Lofgren, have written letters urging President Joe Biden to add Santa Clara County to the Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to aid with storm recovery. Doing so would allow residents affected by the recent deluge of rain to apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) aid and for the county to receive additional federal dollars.

Cortese represents the South Bay and Pellerin represents parts of Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. They teamed up in an effort to bring federal funds for assistance with things like home repairs. A federal disaster declaration could also provide low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other recovery programs. It would also help the county pay for road and infrastructure repairs and other emergency responses.

“Santa Cruz County was kind of the poster child in this area of really bad, classic floodwater damage, but we had it here too,” Cortese told San Jose Spotlight. “It isn’t who wins the prize for the most graphic flood damage. It’s who meets the minimum thresholds for federal assistance. When you start adding up all the private and public sector damage, that is a lot in a huge county like ours.”

Biden visited the Bay Area and Central Coast last week to tour the flooding, mudslides and infrastructure damage from the recent storms. There he announced the expansion of the Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to seven counties: Sacramento, Merced, Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, San Joaquin and Santa Barbara.

Federal officials said the list of counties could increase. Cortese hopes the letters from local leaders will help nudge the White House to include Santa Clara County.

“California (pays more in) federal taxes because of how big our state is. We need that money to come back to us here,” Cortese said. “Santa Clara County pays more in terms of federal income taxes than any other county in the state.”

The recent storms displaced hundreds of homeless residents, flooded farmlands and closed dozens of parks. San Jose alone has an estimated $41.2 million in damages, according to city spokesperson Carolina Camarena.

“Our initial estimate includes costs for response, care and sheltering,” Camarena told San Jose Spotlight. “This number is likely to grow as we gather more information.”

Valley Water sustained more than $1.65 million worth of damages. County operated roads and airports sustained at least $6.7 million in damages, according to local congressional leaders. Mines Road, a key access road for those living in the San Antonio Valley, was completely washed out from the rain. Bear Creek Road remains closed due to a sinkhole and two other washouts.

“With (Mines Road) impassable, some residents are forced to take a detour of over an hour to get in and out of the area,” Congressman Jimmy Panetta wrote to Biden. The letter was co-signed by Congressmembers Eshoo, Lofgren and Khanna. “These closures and road impacts not only impact commutes, but also impact emergency response times for those communities and increase the length of hospital trips.”

Cortese said federal dollars and FEMA aid could help Santa Clara County and its residents repair damages that are not as drastic, like potholes along major roads and highways. He said it could also help rural farmers who’s fences were destroyed or had trees fall around their property.

“A lot of people with modest budgets have been hit really hard by this storm. And I think it’s our job (as state and federal leaders) to make that argument for them that they deserve to be able to put in a FEMA claim,” Cortese said. “I think this administration is hearing that and I think they’ll respond positively.”

This story was originally published by San Jose Spotlight. Please use the original link when sharing: https://sanjosespotlight.com/silicon-valley-santa-clara-county-san-jose-lawmakers-lobby-president-joe-biden-for-federal-storm-aid/