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Federal aid on the way to flood-ravaged areas of SLO and Santa Barbara Counties

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Posted at 9:05 PM, Jan 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-18 02:56:31-05

President Biden has expanded a major disaster declaration to include San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties.

The declaration means that anyone who suffered flood damage can apply directly to the government for financial reimbursement.

The move comes as parts of the Central Coast continue to reel from catastrophic flooding such as Vista Court in Los Osos.

“Every room in my house was inundated with at least two to three feet of mud and water,” said Los Osos resident Phyllis Schoonbeck. “The only thing I can do is laugh before I can cry.”

A wall of muddy water and debris tore through her backyard and knocked a tiny home off its foundation before inundating homes.

“It’s painful every time I walk in the rooms because I had just finished a remodel last April,” said Schoonbeck.

A photo shared with KSBY shows the location where neighbors say a catch basin breached last Monday.

“I felt like I was prepared. Unfortunately, I was probably more prepared for an earthquake than a flood,” explained Schoonbeck while describing the area around her neighborhood. “There’s no lake, there’s no creek. I was not anticipating a wall of water and when I say a wall, I’m not kidding.”

The expansion of the federal disaster declaration means that impacted residents and businesses can apply directly for FEMA aid through a variety of programs.

“They can provide rental assistance and assist with paying rent. They can provide grants, they can provide low-interest loans and reimbursement,” said Rachel Dion, emergency services coordinator for SLO County.

The move was pushed by Central Coast Congressman Salud Carbajal who toured flood damage in Orcutt, Los Osos and Morro Bay this week.

“These are real people with big lives that matter that have been impacted by this. Many of them lost almost everything,” said Quinn Brady, who is the co-founder of Support Los Osos, a community Facebook page with nearly 4,000 members.

She has been mobilizing a grassroots response in the aftermath of last Monday’s destruction.

“People are showing up with a baby on their back, with a shovel on their hand ready to help. Folks are coming out after work just for an hour before it’s dark. Some are staying eight hours and working all day,” adds Brady.

A homeowner on Vista Court says that volunteers worked quickly to clear feet of mud from her home within a day, saving the home from more severe water damage.

“The inner wall isn’t wet which is a good sign if you could consider anything a good sign when your entire house has been red-tagged,” said Schoonbeck.

This is the first time that FEMA aid is coming to SLO County since the San Simeon earthquake in 2003.