Nearly two years after wildfires ripped through Northern California’s wine country, those who suffered losses from the blazes have yet to receive more than $200 million in federal funding intended to rebuild and help prevent future disasters in the state.
The money, authorized by Congress in February 2018, would help finance reconstruction and build new apartments for low-income homeowners and renters affected by the wildfires and allow local governments and the state to prepare for new emergencies. And help could soon be on the way: In July, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development signed off on California’s plan to spend $124 million of its allocation and a deal is expected to be finalized this month.
But the sluggish pace of the approval process, driven by problems within federal and state bureaucracies, has exasperated Sonoma County and Santa Rosa leaders who are counting on the money to help restore the community. County and city officials have met with HUD five times since the fires pleading for the funds, said David Rabbitt, the chairman of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.
“There is a real urgency,” Rabbitt said. “And bureaucracy and urgency most of the times don’t align very well. That’s the biggest frustration.”
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