Congressman Brad Sherman

Representing the 30th District of CALIFORNIA

Wildfire Information and Recovery Resources

  

California has experienced the worst fires in the state's California’s history.  These fires forced hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate their communities, destroyed hundreds of homes, and left many families with nothing.

The Woosley Fire started on November 8, 2018, and burned nearly 100,000 acres.  The fire has killed two people and destroyed 435 structures.

Our recovery is only just beginning. Please know I am committed to working with our local, state and federal officials to ensure that the federal government provides all necessary resources to support our community in this time of recovery. I stand ready to help expedite any support and resources that our communities need to rebuild and repair our homes, businesses, and infrastructure.

For assistance with any of the information provided below, please contact my district office in Sherman Oaks at (818) 501-9200. 

BRAD SHERMAN

***FEMA DISASTER ASSISTANCE***

All individuals who were impacted by the Woolsey Fire should apply for FEMA assistance. Please call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362), go online at http://www.DisasterAssistance.gov or visit a Disaster Recovery Center as soon as possible.

The Administration has issued a major disaster declaration for Los Angeles and Ventura Counties for Individual Assistance as a result of the Woolsey Fire, ordering federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts to areas, which has displaced many families and destroyed homes.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is the primary federal agency tasked with helping individuals, businesses, and public entities recover after a disaster. All individuals impacted by the fires should register through FEMA at www.disasterassistance.gov.

FEMA individual assistance allows homeowners to qualify for grant money and services to people in the declared disaster area whose property has been damaged or destroyed and whose losses are underinsured or not covered by insurance.

***HOW TO APPLY FOR FEMA DISASTER ASSISTANCE***

Individuals who may be eligible for individual assistance should apply through one of the following options:

  • Apply by phone to FEMA: 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). Disaster assistance applicants, who have a speech disability or hearing loss and use TTY, should call 1-800-462-7585 directly; for those who use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 1-800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time seven days a week until further notice.
  • You can also apply online anytime at http://www.DisasterAssistance.gov.
  • By smartphone or tablet, use http://www.fema.gov.

Please have the following information available when you call:

  • A phone number and a reliable alternate in case FEMA needs to call you back;
  • Address of the damaged property;
  • Social Security number;
  • Bank account information (or direct deposit information);
  • Insurance information (if you have insurance);
  • A brief description of damages;
  • Current mailing address; and
  • Pen and paper to write down your registration number.

Government disaster assistance only covers basic needs and usually will not compensate you for your entire loss. If you have insurance, the government may help pay for basic needs not covered under your insurance policy.

Disaster-related assistance may include:

  • Rental payments for temporary housing for those whose homes are unlivable;
  • Grants for home repairs and replacement of essential household items;
  • Unemployment payments for workers who temporarily lost jobs because of the disaster and do not qualify for state benefits (self-employed);
  • Low-interest loans to cover residential losses not fully compensated by insurance;
  • Crisis counseling for those traumatized by the disaster; or
  • Advisory assistance for legal veterans’ benefits and Social Security matters.

***FAQs ABOUT FEMA ASSISTANCE***

Do I have to register with FEMA to get help? Yes, with very few exceptions, if you want federal assistance you must register with FEMA, either by telephone (1-800-621-FEMA (3362)) or online (http://www.DisasterAssistance.gov). You will need your FEMA registration number for future reference.

What is the difference between FEMA and the SBA? FEMA coordinates the Federal Government’s role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters. SBA, on the other hand, is the Federal Government’s primary source of money for the long-term rebuilding of disaster-damaged private property. SBA helps homeowners, renters, businesses, and non-profit organizations repair or replace real estate, personal property, machinery and equipment, inventory, and business assets that have been damaged or destroyed in a declared disaster. These disaster loans cover uninsured and uncompensated losses and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies or organizations. For information about SBA programs, applicants may call 1-800-659-2955 (TTY 1-800-877-8339).

Where can I find updated information from FEMA? For a three-step Disaster Assistance Process and recent news on disaster response and recovery, please visit http://www.fema.gov/apply-assistance. If you are looking for the nearest Disaster Recovery Center, go to http://www.fema.gov/disaster-recovery-centers.

***TAX RELIEF & IRS ASSISTANCE***

Following recent disaster declarations for individual assistance issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the IRS announced that affected taxpayers impacted by the fire will be eligible for tax relief.

The declaration permits the IRS to postpone certain deadlines for taxpayers who reside or have a business in the disaster area. Filing deadlines for certain individual and business taxes have been extended to November 30, 2018. Call the IRS disaster hotline at 866-562-5227 for more information on which filings qualify.

If an affected taxpayer receives a penalty notice from the IRS, the taxpayer should call the telephone number on the notice to have the IRS abate any interest and any late filing or late payment penalties that would otherwise apply. Penalties or interest will be abated only for taxpayers who have an original or extended filing, payment or deposit due date, including an extended filing or payment due date, that falls within the postponement period.

The IRS automatically identifies taxpayers located in the covered disaster area and applies automatic filing and payment relief. But affected taxpayers who reside or have a business located outside the covered disaster area must call the IRS disaster hotline at 866-562-5227 to request this tax relief.

In addition, TTB will consider waiving late filing, payment, or deposit penalties on a case-by-case basis for wineries and other businesses whose operations were affected by the fires. To qualify for such a waiver, a taxpayer must:

  • Demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the appropriate TTB officer, that the fires directly affected your ability to timely file, pay, or deposit; and
  • Contact the TTB National Revenue Center (NRC) at 550 Main Street, Suite 8002, Cincinnati, OH 45202-5215.  Toll-free: 877-882-3277.  E-mail: TTBInternetQuestions@ttb.gov.

Businesses (retailers, wholesalers, importers, export warehouse proprietors, and manufacturers of beverage alcohol and tobacco products) may file claims with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) for the payment (refund or allowance of credit) of Federal excise taxes paid on beverage alcohol or tobacco products lost, rendered unmarketable, or condemned by a duly authorized official where the President has declared a major disaster. You must file your claim(s) using TTB Form 5620.8 Claim - Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Taxes, and mail the form to the address above.

Casualty Losses: Affected taxpayers in a federally declared disaster area have the option of claiming disaster-related casualty losses on their federal income tax return for either this year or last year. Claiming the loss on an original or amended return for last year will get the taxpayer an earlier refund, but waiting to claim the loss on this year’s return could result in a greater tax saving, depending on other income factors.

Individuals may deduct personal property losses that are not covered by insurance or other reimbursements. For details, see Form 4684 and its instructions.

Affected taxpayers claiming the disaster loss on last year’s return should put the Disaster Designation “California, Wildfires and High Winds” at the top of the form so that the IRS can expedite the processing of the refund.

Other Relief: The IRS will waive the usual fees and expedite requests for copies of previously filed tax returns for affected taxpayers. Taxpayers should put the assigned Disaster Designation in red ink at the top of Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return, or Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, as appropriate, and submit it to the IRS.

Affected taxpayers who are contacted by the IRS on a collection or examination matter should explain how the disaster impacts them so that the IRS can provide appropriate consideration to their case.

Taxpayers may download forms and publications from the official IRS website, irs.gov, or order them by calling 800-829-3676. The IRS toll-free number for general tax questions is 800- 829-1040.

***SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION DISASTER LOANS***

The Administration also approved U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loans for homeowners, businesses, and nonprofit organizations. The SBA loans are to help businesses repair or replace disaster-damaged property, inventory, and supplies. Homeowners and renters may also be eligible for SBA loans to repair or replace disaster-related damages to homes or personal property.

What You Need To Do

Begin by registering with FEMA if you haven’t already done so by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). Homeowners and renters should submit their SBA disaster loan application, even if they are not sure if they will need or want a loan. If SBA cannot approve your application, in most cases they refer you to FEMA’s Other Needs Assistance (ONA) program for possible additional assistance.

Three Ways to Apply to SBA

  1. Apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA’s secure website: http://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/Information/Index
  2. Apply in person at the Local Assistance Center and receive personal, one-on-one help from an SBA representative.
  3. Apply by mail: complete a paper application and mail it to the U.S. Small Business Administration Processing and Disbursement Center at 14925 Kingsport Rd., Ft. Worth, TX 76155-2243.

Additional Information

For more information, applicants may contact SBA’s Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center by calling (800) 659-2955, emailing disastercustomerservice@sba.gov, or visiting SBA’s Web site at http://www.sba.gov/disaster. Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals may call (800)877-8339. Applicants may also apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA’s secure Web site at http://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.

***AVOIDING WILDFIRE-RELATED FRAUD AND SCAMS***

As survivors work to recover, there is always the risk that bad actors try to take advantage of those looking for support and those looking to donate to charities helping survivors. Everyone should remain vigilant for these scam artists.

The Department of Justice has a National Center for Disaster Fraud set up to detect these scams, prosecute fraudulent activity, and keep you and your family safe from these bad actors. You can always call the hotline at 866-720-5721, email the Center at disaster@leo.gov or visit Center’s website at www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud. You can also report any suspicious activity to local and county law enforcement agencies.

The Center has issued the following guidance you should follow to protect you and your family from fraud:

  • If you are unsure or uncomfortable with anyone you encounter claiming to be an emergency management official or charity worker, do not give out personal information, and report the incident. You can always call the hotline at 866-720-5721, email the Center at disaster@leo.gov or visit Center’s website at www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud.
  • If you are approached via phone, email or in person by someone claiming to represent a charity helping disaster survivors, ask for the charity’s exact name, street address, phone number, and web address, then contact the charity directly and confirm that the person asking for funds is an employee or volunteer. You can always call the hotline at 866-720- 5721, email the Center at disaster@leo.gov or visit Center’s website at www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud.

***REPLACING LOST DOCUMENTS***

If you’ve lost important documents or identification in the fires, many can be replaced. You can learn more about how to replace these common documents by contacting them directly:

  • California Driver’s License: Phone: 800-777-0133 or Visit a California DMV office to complete an application. Replacement license forms must be delivered in person.
  • Green cards: Phone: 800-375-5283 or visit http://www.uscis.gov.
  • Medicare cards: Phone: 800-772-1213; (TTY) 800-325-0778 or visit http://www.ssa.gov/medicare.
  • Military records: Phone: 866-272-6272 or visit http://www.archives.gov.
  • Passport: Phone:1-877-487-2778; 888-874-7793 (TTY) or visit http://www.travel.state.gov.
  • Social Security card: Phone: 800-772-1213; (TTY) 800-325-0778 or visit http://www.ssa.gov.
  • U.S. Savings Bonds: Phone: 1-844-284-2676 or visit http://www.treasurydirect.gov.
  • U.S. tax returns: Phone: 800-829-1040 or visit http://www.irs.gov.
  • Human Services and Legal Services: As fire survivors begin the process of recovery and rebuilding, 2-1-1 Los Angeles County and 2-1-1 Ventura County are available to help. Survivors seeking health and human services and legal assistance can call the following numbers: 

***VETERANS ASSISTANCE***

If you need information regarding VA death benefits, pensions, insurance settlements, or other information related to VA, contact the Federal Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) at 1-800-827-1000 (TDD Telecommunications Device for the Deaf 1-800-829-4833), or visit their Inquiry Routing and Information System (IRIS) website at http://iris.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/1703

***ADDITIONAL SERVICES OFFERED BY THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA***

CalWORKs: Provides cash aid to eligible needy California families to help pay for housing, food, and other necessary expenses. For more information contact your local county welfare/social services department. To find your local office visit the website at http://www.cwda.org/links/chsa.php or for more information on this program, visit the cash aid website at http://www.cdss.ca.gov/CalWORKS

Crisis Counseling: Short-term counseling may be available for emotional or mental health problems caused by the impacts of a disaster. For more information, contact your county mental health department.

CalFresh: If you have been affected by a disaster and are in need of food assistance, you can apply for benefits through the CalFresh Program. To find out how to apply for benefits in your county, please call the toll free number 1-877-847-3663 (FOOD) or apply online at http://www.benefitscal.org/ For more information on CalFresh, visit the website at http://www.calfresh.ca.gov

Health Information: For information on health concerns related to a disaster you can contact 916-650-6416 or visit the California Department of Public Health website at http://www.bepreparedcalifornia.ca.gov

Insurance and Rebuilding: California Department of Insurance – CA Department of Insurance provides assistance on insurance issues, such as claim handling delays, additional living expenses, underinsurance disputes, etc. The Insurance Commissioner wants to make sure that the claim process moves as smoothly and as quickly as possible and that any underinsurance issues are investigated. If you are experiencing difficulty with the processing of your claim or wish to have an underinsurance issue investigated, contact the officers at the Department’s Consumer Hotline at 1-800-927-HELP (4357); TDD 1-800-482-4833 for assistance. For additional information, you may also wish to visit the Department’s Web site at: www.insurance.ca.gov

The Contractors State License Board – CSLB verifies contractor licenses, investigates complaints and provides helpful information about hiring a licensed contractor. For information on hiring or filing a complaint regarding a contractor, disaster victims may call CSLB’s Disaster Hotline M-F from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. at 1-800-962-1125, or the 24-hour automated telephone response system, 1-800-321-CSLB (2752). Licenses can also be checked online at http://www.cslb.ca.gov or http://www.CheckTheLicenseFirst.com. You can also view a video, “Rebuilding After a Natural Disaster” on the CSLB Web site.

The California Department of Housing and Community Development – HCD can assist with manufactured housing questions including repairs, installations and/or registration and titling. For information on obtaining construction permits for manufactured homes or parks contact the Riverside Area Office at 951-782-4420 or the Sacramento Area Office at 916-255-2501. For information concerning Registration and Titling call 1-800-952-8356; TDD 1-800-735-2929 or visit the website at http://www.hcd.ca.gov/

Medi-Cal Health Coverage: Medi-Cal is a public health insurance program that provides comprehensive medical, dental and vision care coverage to low-income individuals, including families with children, seniors, persons with disabilities, pregnant women and low-income people with specific diseases, such as tuberculosis, breast cancer or HIV/AIDS. For more information, contact your county welfare/social services department. To find your local office, visit the Web site at http://www.dhcs.ca.gov/services/medi-cal/Pages/CountyOffices.aspx or call 916-552-9200.

Services for Seniors: The California Department of Aging contracts with and provides leadership and direction to Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) that coordinate a wide array of services to seniors and adults with Disabilities. You can locate an AAA in your area by calling (800) 510-2020; TTD (800) 735-2929 or visit the website at http://aging.ca.gov/Programs/

Tax Advice and Assistance: California Board of Equalization – For questions regarding sales and use, property and special taxes, contact the Board of Equalization at 1-800-400-7115 (TTY: 1-800-735-2929) or visit the website at http://www.boe.ca.gov.

Unemployment Assistance: People who are out of work due to the fires may be eligible for unemployment benefits. You can file for benefits at http://www.edd.ca.gov/Unemployment/UI_Online.htm. You can also file by phone, Monday – Friday, 8:00 am – 12:00 pm by calling:

  • English: 1-800-300-5616
  • Spanish: 1-800-326-8937
  • Chinese: 1-800-547-3506 (Cantonese), 1-866-303-0706 (Mandarin)
  • Vietnamese: 1-800-547-2058

Employment Development Department – *Assistance for Employers*: CA employers who are directly affected by a state of emergency may request up to a 60-day extension to file their state payroll reports and to deposit state payroll taxes with the Employment Development Department (EDD), without penalty or interest. For further information, call EDD Taxpayer Assistance Center at 1-888-745-3886; TTY 1-800-547-9565 or visit EDD’s website at http://www.edd.ca.gov.

The Franchise Tax Board – FTB provides guidance in obtaining tax relief for disaster casualty losses. Contact FTB at 1-800-852-5711 (TTY/TDD for hearing or speech impaired: 1-800-822-6268) or visit the website at http://www.ftb.ca.gov.

Veterans: California Department of Veterans Affairs – If you have a California Department of Veterans Affairs (CALVET) loan and have suffered damage caused by a disaster, contact CALVET at 1-800-952-5626; TDD 1-800-324-5966.

Women, Infants, and Children Supplemental Nutrition Program: The Woman, Infants, and Children (WIC) program helps low-to-moderate-income pregnant women, new mothers, and their babies and young children to eat well and stay healthy. WIC provides:

  • Special checks to buy healthy foods such as milk, juice, eggs, cheese, fruits, vegetables, baby foods, and whole grains;
  • Information about nutrition and health;
  • Breastfeeding support and referrals to health care and community services.

For more information, call 1-888-942-9675 or visit the website at http://www.cdph.ca.gov and click on “Find a Local WIC Agency” under Program Information.