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Assemblymember Rodriguez Urges Assembly Support AB 1786 To Create Disaster Aid Programs For Those That Don’t Qualify For Federal Aid

FEMA Recommends States Establish Their Own Individual Assistance Programs — California Currently Has No Such Program

For immediate release:

(SACRAMENTO, CA)—Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez (D-Pomona) held a press conference today in support of Assembly Bill 1786, to provide timely, direct assistance to individuals, families, and communities that have suffered from disasters, but do not qualify for federal disaster aid.

"California is a disaster-prone state and climate change is only going to increase the frequency and severity of natural disasters like wildfires, floods and mudslides, sea level rise, and heat waves," said Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez (D-Pomona), Chair of the Assembly Emergency Management Committee. "We must have resources available to our most vulnerable communities to provide emergency housing, job loss aid, rebuilding assistance, lifeline infrastructure restoration, and medical care access. AB 1786 is a sensible use of funds to increase the resilience of all Californians as we face the threats posed by climate change-related disasters.”

AB 1786 would to create two disaster relief programs funded through the existing Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. It would establish a $100 million California Individual Assistance program to provide assistance to families not currently eligible for federal or state assistance due to the extent of damages in their community or their immigration status. It would also establish a $400 million California Local Assistance program to help tribal and local governments rebuild, restore, and harden critical infrastructure and lifeline systems prior to, and following, disasters. These funds would be channeled through trusted and culturally competent community-based organizations to ensure the right relief reaches all who need it.

“My interest in supporting AB 1786 as a coauthor was due to the torrential rain storms and subsequent flooding in San Diego that my constituents experienced earlier this year. Communities were devastated as thousands discovered their homes flooded, businesses destroyed, and transportation infrastructure ruined,” said Assemblymember David Alvarez (D-San Diego). “As countless people have been attempting to rebuild their lives, many are struggling to restore their properties, livelihoods, and their sense of normalcy. The relief that AB 1786 seeks to establish is critical to improving the ability of communities to recover after a natural disaster.”

The existing FEMA Individual and Households Program prioritizes aid for major catastrophes and often determines local disasters in more populous states, such as California, as too minor to necessitate federal aid – regardless of the severity to a local community. Additionally, federal funds are ineligible to be granted to undocumented immigrants. Currently, the state has no pre-established gap-filling plan to help the people who existing state and federal programs leave out, leading to piecemeal and one-off allocations to help communities that have suffered through disasters, such as Planada and Pajaro in 2023.

“I am proud to be a co-author on AB 1786 to bring needed resources to Californians impacted by natural disasters and those typically who do not qualify for FEMA programs,” said Senator Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara). “I have seen firsthand the toll natural disasters can have on families and want to ensure that every Californian has the tools it needs to recover.”

The Casa de la Cultura Center, the only non-profit in Parajo, served as a conduit for aid during the devastating flood in 2023 that resulted from a levee breach. As part of the Parajo Disaster Long Term Recovery Alliance, the Center recounts navigating the bureaucratic processes of accessing the emergency aid allocated by AB 102 and “witness[ing] firsthand the untimely and inadequate disaster response the community experienced.” In responding to the needs stated by communities by creating a standing aid program that makes accessible “appropriate and timely disaster response,” the Center says AB 1786 could “mitigate the hardships faced by vulnerable communities during times of crisis.”

Given the budgetary crisis faced by the state, this bill utilizes an existing funding source the legislature is empowered to allocate, the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. Fueled by the cap-and-trade program, these funds are meant to help California address and reduce the impact of climate change. 35 percent of these funds are required to benefit priority populations. Previous mitigation uses of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund include the Wildfire Response and Readiness Program, the Sea Level Rise Program, and the Low-Income Weatherization Program. AB 1786 would empower communities to ready themselves for inevitable climate-exacerbated emergencies and deliver timely aid to individuals, families, communities, and tribal governments when they need it most.

"Climate change is the ultimate disaster multiplier, my district has been hit repeatedly with disasters since the 2017 CZU fire. Investing in disaster funding to help people recover from disasters is an investment in resilience and community strength, said Assemblymember Gail Pellerin (D-Santa Cruz). “By extending support and resources to those affected, we can alleviate immediate suffering and empower communities to rebuild stronger and more prepared for future challenges.”