FEMA Approves Shelter Extension for CZU Lightning Complex Fire Survivors After Request Made by Representatives Panetta and Eshoo

October 27, 2020
Press Release

SALINAS, CA – FEMA has approved a 30-day extension of its non-congregate shelter program for CZU Lightning Complex Fire survivors in Santa Cruz County.  This approval came two days after Congressman Panetta (D-Carmel Valley) and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (CA-18) requested the agency to expeditiously review and approve California’s request for a 30-day extension of the shelter program.  The FEMA non-congregate shelter program is providing emergency housing assistance to those impacted by recent wildfires while adhering to COVID-19 safety protocol, keeping survivors distanced from those not in their households to prevent the spread of illness.

“As we on Central Coast face a devastating wildfire season and a bruising pandemic, we must work together to ensure that those impacted have a safe place to stay,” said Congressman Panetta.  “I'm privileged to team up with Congresswoman Eshoo to ensure that the federal government continues to provide some form of emergency housing assistance to those who have been affected during these tough times.  I will continue to work with my colleagues in Washington, D.C. for this type of comprehensive response to afford our community members temporary shelter to allow them to get back on their feet and move forward.”

“FEMA’s approval of a 30-day extension for housing assistance for fire victims is welcome news as our communities continue to recover from the devasting wildfires.  Emergency housing remains critical in the Santa Cruz Mountains after nearly 1,000 homes in my Congressional district were destroyed by the CZU Lightning Complex Fire,” Rep. Eshoo said.  “Today’s news is another step forward to help my constituents, and I’m grateful to have such a great partner in Congressman Panetta.”

“It’s all too easy to take a roof over your head for granted, but the reality is that many local residents still don’t have a home to go back to,” said Michele Averill, CEO of the Red Cross of the Central Coast.  “The uncertainty around not knowing if you’ll have a place to stay can be incredibly stressful and slow down the wildfire recovery process.  Congressman Panetta and Congresswoman Eshoo’s efforts around the shelter program extension will do more than provide a safe and secure place for residents – it will lift spirits.”

Read Representatives Panetta and Eshoo’s letter here or below:

Dear Director Fenton,

We write to request full and fair consideration of the State of California’s recent requests for emergency housing assistance for fire survivors in Santa Cruz County.  Specifically, we ask that you expeditiously review and approve the State’s request for a 30-day extension to the non-congregate shelter program, in addition to the State’s request for assistance through the Direct Housing Program.  These temporary housing solutions will allow individuals who lost their homes in the CZU Lightning Complex Fire to retain housing security as they navigate the various FEMA and county-level processes to ensure longer-term recovery and rebuilding.

Currently, nearly half of the CZU Lightning Complex Fire survivors may be able to return to their homes within 30 days.  An extension of the non-congregate shelter program, therefore, would allow a significant number of evacuees sufficient time to return safely to their homes without a gap in shelter.  Case management resources could then be focused on those with the most damage to their property and in most need of support.

Similarly, FEMA assistance through the Direct Housing Program would ensure that vulnerable individuals and families have access to temporary housing units as they work with FEMA, Cal OES, local officials, and volunteers to find permanent housing solutions and execute their disaster recovery plans.

We are grateful for FEMA’s assistance to Santa Cruz County during this particularly devastating wildfire season, through both the Fire Management Assistance Grant for the CZU Lightning Complex Fire and the August/September Major Disaster Declaration.  Given the continued impact of this fire on County residents, we respectfully ask that you grant the State’s request for continued non-congregate sheltering and Direct Housing, to ensure our communities can recover with resilience.


Jimmy Panetta, Member of Congress

Anna G. Eshoo, Member of Congress