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FEMA is now accepting applications for disaster relief in Kern County

The president's recent declaration of disaster has made FEMA disaster relief funds available to Central Valley residents, including in Kern County.
Pond, CA April 2023
Posted at 8:12 PM, Apr 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-05 23:12:49-04

POND, Calif. (KERO) — The close-knit community of Pond, California was hit especially hard by flooding, experiencing damage to both homes and businesses. On Tuesday, President Joe Biden declared a Major Disaster in California due to the storms, which means those residents and business owners can now apply to the federal government for disaster and emergency help.

Captain Andrew Freeborn with the Kern County Fire Department says the declaration will bring some much-needed help to the region and to cities like Pond.

"It shows just how severe our local communities throughout Kern County were impacted by these winter storms. What the declaration makes possible is for assistance to individuals," said Freeborn.

The new assistance is available through the Federal Emergency Management Administration, and according to FEMA Media Relations Specialist Arlene Diaz-Carrero, is meant to be distributed to any person in Kern who suffered damages from the recent storms, snow, and flooding.

"The new declaration is considering the events that took place in February 27th and is still continuing," said Diaz-Carrero.

Diaz-Carrero says these funds can help reimburse people for damage to their homes that they have already paid to fix, and the claims will be individually evaluated to determine the type of assistance needed.

"If your house is in a condition in which the survivor can live there, we can provide them assistance for that type of cleaning," offered Diaz-Carrero as an example of individualized assistance.


If you need to apply for FEMA assistance to help with damage to your property after the recent storms, the first thing you'll need to do is assess and document the damage. Take photos of your damaged property and write up a list of any damaged or lost items.

If you have insurance, make sure you file a claim with them first.

To apply for FEMA assistance, you can go to their Disaster Assistance webpage, download the FEMA app on your smartphone and follow the instructions, or call FEMA at 1-800-621-3362.

At Frandy's Campground in Kernville, co-owner and manager Beverly Demetriff says her property was heavily impacted by flood damage. She says she's been cleaning every day, but her campground is still not fully functional.

"I figured it out. I lose $1,902 dollars a day," said Demetriff. "But I will still push the fact that we need grants, not loans, because everybody is in the same position. We are not having the income that we should be having, and we are having to put out a lot of money to even get things back into shape."

Kernville saw some of the worst flooding in Kern County, possibly in the history of Kern County, and many campgrounds near the river suffered major damage.

"Campgrounds that don't have the equipment are having to rent backhoes and skidders and all that, and it takes money, and people are not very sympathetic to the fact that you were hit by a flood," said Demetriff.

For businesses, the disaster declaration only makes low-interest loans available through the Small Business Administration, with no grants being available to them at this time. Demetriff says she doesn't think this will help.

Captain Freeborn emphasizes that the county worked to secure this assistance after seeing the need, and that everyone who has been impacted should apply for it.

"So a lot of what we're seeing now is a direct result of all of the efforts of county departments, where they recognized more assistance was needed," said Freeborn. "The impact to our community… if that was not documented by our city departments and then submitted to our state and then on to the Biden Administration, then there's a good chance this local individual assistance would never have come about."

According to Freeborn, county officials are working with FEMA to set up a local assistance center where people can go and meet with agencies face-to-face and find out what kind of assistance they qualify for.


There are some things that could cause FEMA to decline an application for disaster assistance. When applying for aid, be aware that the following conditions might result in a denial:

  1. If your primary insurer has already agreed to cover the damage. FEMA cannot provide financial assistance for damages that are already being covered by an insurer.
  2. If the damages and losses are determined to be too minimal for FEMA to address them.
  3. If an application pertains to a home that is not the primary residence of the applicant. FEMA will only offer assistance to property owners making claims regarding their own property.
  4. If FEMA assistance would duplicate any other disaster benefits from other sources. For example, if the county gives you money to buy new furniture, FEMA will deny any claim you make for furniture money.
  5. If FEMA agents cannot reach you to follow up on your application, it will be denied, so be sure to double check the contact information you give them.