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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 9, 1998
                         EXISTS IN CALIFORNIA

The President today declared a major disaster exists in the State of California. He ordered Federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area struck by severe winter storms and flooding that began February 2, 1998.

My Administration is committed to ensuring a speedy recovery from this extraordinary natural disaster, the President said. I am grateful to the hundreds of emergency crews and volunteers who have done an excellent job protecting life and property under such extreme conditions. My thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the floods and mudslides."

The President's action makes Federal funding available to affected individuals and local governments in a 27 county area. The counties are Alameda, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Merced, Monterey, Napa, San Benito, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Sonoma, Sutter, Tehama, Ventura, Yolo, and Yuba.

Vice President Gore commended the hard work of volunteers and lawmakers saying, We stand ready to do what we can to help the families affected by these devastating floods. But we are also grateful for the hard work of the families, communities, and federal officials who had the foresight to plan for the worst -- and to prepare for the terrible impact of El Nino. I especially want to thank FEMA Director James Lee Witt and Senator Barbara Boxer for their leadership in this area. When communities are hit with a disaster this severe, effective preparedness and strong disaster relief must go hand-in-hand. That is why I am so glad that we can help all 27 affected counties, so that California's families and communities can recover and rebuild as quickly as possible.

Assistance can include disaster housing, grants, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

Federal funding is available to eligible local governments on a cost-sharing basis for debris removal and emergency protective measures under the Public Assistance program. Federal funding is also available on a cost share basis for hazard mitigation measures.

The Agency said that damage surveys are continuing in other areas, and additional counties and assistance may be added after the assessments are completed.