Support sought for Santa Rosa disaster relief fund

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AARON LITTLE Santa Rosa Press Gazette @AaronL_SRPG

PACE — The Support Alliance For Emergency Readiness wants to raise money for a disaster relief fund.

“The intent here is how do Santa Rosans take care of Santa Rosa?” SAFER Director Daniel Hahn said.

Particularly when Santa Rosans find themselves with unexpected life-changing stormwater damage.

Following the June storms including Tropical Storm Cindy, Lori and Matt Newcomer are without power and a floor in their Pace home on Belvedere Circle after flooding damaged their home and yard, Lori said.

The family of seven had to remain upstairs during the storm. Shortly afterward, the five children had to stay with other family members.

“For six nights the children couldn’t come home,” Lori said.

The Newcomers bought the house in December and didn’t receive suggestions for flood insurance, Lori said, but the couple didn’t think they needed it since they didn’t believe the home was at risk.

The Tiburon East and West neighborhoods are in Zone X, a moderate to low-risk area, according to the Santa Rosa County Property Appraiser website.

“These zones are not considered to be a special flood hazard area but can still flood,” the site states.

Now the Newcomers face $50,000 in repairs on the interior of their home.

“With all the appliances, furniture, the restoration bill, all the trim, and the doors all buckled,” Lori said. “We don’t want a handout, just some help…We’re in a tight spot.”

That’s where the disaster relief fund, with enough supporters, could help.

“Imagine if we could get 100 organizations, businesses, nonprofits, and churches to give $10 a month to a disaster fund,” Hahn said. “That would be $1,000 a month.”

These are example numbers, Hahn said. The plan is to build a disaster relief fund supplied by Santa Rosa County individuals and organizations.

“That’s what I’m trying to do. If we do that, we can take care of our own citizens,” he said.

The need to build this kind of fund may become more critical as the Federal Emergency Management Agency considers budget-saving measures.

The agency may change its state-required threshold for help and possibly the percentage of the bill the state has to pay, according to Hahn.

Critics say disaster relief costs too much money, with FEMA’s disaster-relief budget doubling to $5 billion a year by the end of the Obama administration, according to a Dec. 8, 2016, article in Governing titled, “FEMA’s Plan to Make States Pay More for Disasters.”

This threshold refers to the damage a natural disaster causes in terms of dollars to a state.

“Right now, the threshold a state needs to meet to get a presidential (disaster) declaration, for Florida is roughly $27 million to state,” Hahn said. “They’re talking about raising (the) state threshold. If it’s raised to $50 million, in many disasters in the past FEMA wouldn’t have gotten involved…People are used to the government coming in and saving them.”

So SAFER is starting the process to develop a disaster relief fund.

“We’ve got $1,500 in the disaster fund I brought to people’s attention (in) 2014,” Hahn said. “We’re starting the process. It’s a whole list of things, but all of these ideas will be moot if we don’t get people and organizations to come forward and say they’ll make an annual or monthly sustaining contribution.”

At the same time, Hahn encourages Santa Rosa County residents to purchase flood insurance.

“We can solve a lot of these problems if people just buy flood insurance,” he said. “The world is a flood zone. It floods everywhere. Everybody should be responsible for their own property.”

He includes renters as well.

“Ask the homeowner. ‘Do you have flood insurance? Please purchase it.’ The government is not taking care of you anymore. …”

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