California Received 1.3 Billion in Federal Disaster Relief, but Victims of the Fires Have not Received a Penny

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California has had four straight years of extremely large and extremely destructive wildfires. In 2017, it was the Tubbs, Thomas, and Canyon fires. In 2018, it was the Camp and Woolsey fires. In 2019, it was the Glass fire. In 2020, the Creek and Bobcat fires.

Those are just the ones that destroyed the most acreage or had major losses in property and life, with millions of people displaced.

According to the Los Angeles Times, California has received more than $1.3 billion in federal aid to rebuild after the 2017 and 2018 Camp fires, and other subsequent “natural disasters.” However, homeowners and renters who were displaced by these fires have yet to see any money.

No money to relocate. No money to rebuild. Not a penny. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

Years-long federal and state bureaucratic delays are to blame for this horrible situation.

“To get access to the funding, California housing officials have needed to develop spending plans approved by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. But it took nearly two years after the disasters for HUD to sign off on any of the state’s proposals to respond to the 2017 wildfires. Last week, more than two years after the 2018 wildfires, federal officials finally authorized the state’s plans for that year’s relief efforts.”

So four straight years of disastrous fires, and the State has just obtained HUD approval for the fires that happened three years ago? This is unconscionable. Now the victims of the 2019 and 2020 fire season will have to go through the merry-go-round of applying for funding. Between the COVID-19 pandemic and a change of administration in Washington, they may be looking at even more years.

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It’s heartbreaking, and nobody’s hands are clean. Everyone, Democrat and Republican, is to blame.

“The spending problems have attracted condemnation from Democrats and Republicans in Congress, with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), typically an ally of the president, among those accusing the administration of having intentionally stalled the money nationwide. HUD officials have denied that they prevented the dollars from coming out. Instead, they’ve lamented the complicated requirements surrounding the disaster relief program, which include writing new regulations every time the money is authorized.

“Legislation to simplify how HUD handles disaster relief has not advanced despite bipartisan support.”

It sounds like Katrina all over again, but instead of displaced people who are possibly drowning or suffering from disease, we have people displaced, in debt, out of business or work, and wholly dependent on the delivery of these funds. We all have a front row seat to Congress’s inability to get another COVID Relief package off the ground; tack on more layers of bureaucracy and you are experiencing a small microcosm of what these fire victims are going through.

But Governor Gavin Newsom’s progressive cabal is also not without blame. An investigation by the local HUD chapter has uncovered fraud and waste in the distribution of the funds to relief victims.

In a letter from the HUD San Francisco district office to the director of the Department of Housing and Community Development, it noted “a total of twenty-five (25) findings and five (5) concerns were identified.”

“In California, around the time the 2017 fires hit, HUD investigators were examining the state housing department’s handling of other federal grants. They found a “systemic failure” in how the department monitored the money it handed out. HUD officials have said the state’s internal oversight issues, which housing officials here did not dispute, contributed to the delays in approving disaster relief plans.

Between the Federal gridlock and the poorly-managed State government, Californians adversely affected by wildfires do not have a great deal of hope, and continue to wait in vain for relief.

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