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California Is Not Adequately Prepared to Protect Its Most Vulnerable Residents From Natural Disasters


Report Number: 2019-103

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Appendix A

Resources That the State and Federal Government Make Available to Disaster Survivors After a Natural Disaster

Table A lists the services and financial assistance that the state and federal governments make available to disaster survivors following natural disasters. Table A does not include assistance or services that are not specific to natural disasters; rather, it lists assistance or services for which the disaster survivors may become eligible as a result of the impact of a natural disaster, such as services available to people with low incomes.

Table A
Selected State and Federal Assistance for Survivors of Natural Disasters
State General Eligibility Key Program or Service Benefits
Department of Social Services State Supplemental Grant Program Individuals who have received the maximum housing assistance from FEMA. Assists with rental housing; repairing/replacing homes and personal property; cleaning and debris removal; and disaster‑related illness, injury, or funeral costs.
Disaster CalFresh Disaster survivors who do not exceed certain income limits. Provides one month's worth of food benefits that can be used to purchase food at authorized retail stores.
Department of Motor Vehicles Disaster survivors. Replaces certain DMV documents, such as driver's licenses and vehicle registration, at no cost if lost or damaged due to a disaster.
CalWORKS Program Families that become homeless as a result of a declared natural disaster. Provides temporary and permanent homeless assistance.
Board of Equalization Owners of real property and certain other property types damaged by declared natural disasters, as permitted by county ordinance. Provides property tax relief.
Employment Development Department Workers unemployed due to a disaster or emergency. Provides unemployment insurance, disability insurance, or paid family leave. In addition, assists individuals in applying for federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) when authorized by the President.
Franchise Tax Board Taxpayers who experience disaster losses. Provides guidance in obtaining tax relief for disaster losses.
Federal General Eligibility Key Program or Service Benefits
American Red Cross (Red Cross)* Disaster survivors. Provides shelter, food, bulk distribution of needed supplies, first aid, and welfare information.
FEMA Individuals and Households Program People affected by a declared disaster who have uninsured or underinsured necessary expenses and serious needs. Provides financial housing assistance for rent, home repairs, and home replacement. Also provides direct housing assistance, such as manufactured housing units, when survivors cannot use rental assistance because they lack housing resources.
FEMA Individuals and Households Program Other Needs Assistance Provision Disaster survivors who apply for a U.S. Small Business Administration disaster loan and are either denied or can demonstrate that the loan does not cover all their necessary expenses. Provides financial assistance for funeral expenses, medical expenses, moving and storage expenses, and repair or replacement of personal property, including clothing, household items, transportation, and other property.
FEMA Transitional Shelter Assistance FEMA-registered disaster survivors, displaced from their residence because of a disaster. Provides short-term stays in hotels or motels.
U.S. Small Business Administration Disaster Loan Assistance Homeowners and renters in declared disaster areas. Individuals do not need to own a business. Offers low-interest, long-term loans to repair or replace homes, refinance mortgages, and replace damaged or destroyed personal property.
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Low-income homeowners in rural areas. Provides loans and grants to help with repairs from damages caused by disasters. Individuals can also receive priority for renting USDA‑financed rental housing.

Source: Disaster relief documentation from FEMA, Cal OES, California Department of Social Services, and the websites for the disaster programs and services contained in Table A.

* We included the Red Cross as a federal resource available to disaster survivors because as we mention in the report, the Red Cross has a federal charter to provide relief across the country during natural disasters.

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Appendix B

Scope and Methodology

The Audit Committee directed the California State Auditor to examine emergency plans for the safe and efficient evacuation of residents with access and functional needs in counties that have experienced natural disasters. We reviewed the extent that three counties—Butte, Sonoma, and Ventura—have incorporated best practices related to protecting people with access and functional needs during natural disasters into their emergency plans. We also reviewed the extent to which Cal OES has provided key guidance to local jurisdictions to support them in planning to meet access and functional needs. We did not assess particular claims or complaints, nor did we evaluate or reach conclusions about matters pending before various legal tribunals whether related to liability, fault, damages, or any related issues. Table B below lists the objectives that the Audit Committee approved and the methods we used to address them.

Table B
Audit Objectives and the Methods Used to Address Them
1 Review and evaluate the laws, rules and regulations significant to the audit objectives. Reviewed relevant federal and state laws, rules, regulations, and best practices related to emergency management, emergency plans, and access and functional needs.
2 Review a selection of after-action reports that cities and counties have filed with Cal OES and other available sources of information for recent emergencies and disasters, including wildfires, to identify lessons learned regarding assisting individuals with access and functional needs during and after the incidents.
  • Reviewed a selection of Cal OES's after-action reports, after-action reports that local jurisdictions submitted to Cal OES, and other reviews of response and recovery for recent natural disasters, and documented commonly reported challenges in meeting access and functional needs.
  • Reviewed Cal OES's after-action report process and interviewed staff at Cal OES and local jurisdictions regarding that process.

For a selection of three counties that have recently experienced natural disasters, evaluate the counties' processes for ensuring that individuals with access and functional needs are accounted and cared for before, during, and after an emergency or disaster by doing the following:

a. Identify requirements in state and federal law and best practices for emergency response regarding accounting for and assisting individuals with access and functional needs—such as elderly residents and residents with disabilities—during emergencies, including emergency communication, evacuation, and sheltering. Assess the counties' emergency plans, including whether the plans adequately incorporate those requirements and best practices.

b. Determine the extent and frequency with which the counties have reviewed and updated their emergency plans and have incorporated lessons learned from recent emergencies and disasters to ensure that those with access and functional needs are evacuated in a safe and efficient manner.

c. Identify and assess the resources and programs the counties make available to individuals with access and functional needs following an evacuation.

  • Selected three counties—Butte, Sonoma, and Ventura—that had recent, significant natural disasters.
  • Reviewed the counties' emergency plans and interviewed county staff to determine the extent to which the plans complied with state law and incorporated key best practices, as well as the frequency with which the counties updated their plans.
  • Reviewed available emergency response records from the Camp, Sonoma Complex, and Thomas Fires to assess the extent to which planning and preparedness efforts affected the counties in the areas of alerting, evacuating, and sheltering people with access and functional needs.
  • Reviewed the counties' plans and other documentation to determine the extent to which the counties made revisions to their plans following their respective fires to incorporate best practices and lessons learned.
  • In each county, interviewed representatives of and collected documentation from community organizations representing individuals with a variety of access and functional needs to learn the experiences of the people whom they represent during the recent fires and to determine the extent to which those organizations have been involved with county planning efforts.
  • Reviewed the counties' plans for establishing local assistance centers to connect people with disaster support resources and programs following natural disasters. We reviewed available records and interviewed county staff regarding the local assistance centers that the counties established during their recent fires. We documented the disaster resources and programs that state and federal government entities provide to people impacted by a disaster.
4 For the counties selected for Objective 3, determine what additional resources, information, or guidance they require to develop effective emergency plans, including whether changes to statewide policy are necessary.
  • Reviewed the training and guidance that Cal OES and FEMA make available to local jurisdictions for developing plans that incorporate strategies for assisting people with access and functional needs.
  • Reviewed state laws and regulations related to emergency planning, including planning to meet access and functional needs.
  • Interviewed staff at each county regarding what additional resources, information, and guidance they require.
5 Determine the number of casualties that have occurred as a result of an emergency or disaster over the last five years, including, to the extent possible, the proportion of casualties that were individuals with access and functional needs.
  • Interviewed staff at Cal OES and the California Department of Public Health and determined that these entities do not track the number of casualties from natural disasters.
  • Obtained death records from each county we reviewed for all deaths that the counties determined were related to natural disasters. Reviewed death records to determine the proportion of those casualties who may have had access and functional needs.
6 Review and assess any other issues that are significant to the audit. Did not identify any additional significant issues.

Source: Analysis of the Audit Committee's audit request number 2019-103, as well as information and documentation identified in the table column titled Method.

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