Monday, January 30, 2023

Quakes Damage Hits $32M, Disaster Loan Center Moves to Rio Dell, Contractors Wanted for State Earthquake Retrofitting Program

Posted By on Mon, Jan 30, 2023 at 3:00 PM

click to enlarge A house near Painter Street in Rio Dell was knocked several feet off its foundation by a 6.4 earthquake that hit the area Dec. 20. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • A house near Painter Street in Rio Dell was knocked several feet off its foundation by a 6.4 earthquake that hit the area Dec. 20.
To state the obvious, living in Humboldt County means living in earthquake country.

That’s the reason why local homeowners, especially those with a house built before 1940, may be eligible to apply for a state program called Earthquake Brace + Bolt, which aims to help offset the cost of retrofitting homes vulnerable to falling off their foundations by providing $3,000 grants.

(Find out more about the program, including an expanded lower income supplemental grant, and qualifying here.)

About 170 Humboldt County residents were selected in the EBB's latest application round but in order to participate, they must select from a list of approved contractors to do the work and currently only three in the local area are registered with the program. That void brought officials with the California Earthquake Authority, which along with California Residential Mitigation Program administers the EBB program, up to the area recently to try to spread the word and bring additional contractors into the fold.

In some areas of the state, Chief Mitigation Officer Janiele Maffei said, participating contractors have built their businesses soley on retrofitting work for the program. To find out more on how to become a participating contractor, click here.

“We would very much like to have more,” Maffei said during her recent visit, which included a tour of homes impacted by the magnitude 6.4 earthquake that hit Dec. 20 and the 5.4 New Year’s Day aftershock and meetings with Rio Dell officials and the Humboldt Builders’ Association.

According to the county’s latest estimates, the quakes caused a combined $32 million in damage. Of the nearly 2,000 structures inspected, 91 were deemed unsafe for occupation and another 353 were yellow-tagged, meaning a need for safety repairs, with 109 households displaced, many of those in the city of Rio Dell.

“Our work is to make homes more resilient,” Maffei said, noting those interested in the program can sign up to be notified when the next registration period opens. “They don’t have to remember us, we’ll remember them,” she said.

On Sunday, the Humboldt County Office of Emergency Services announced the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Disaster Loan Outreach Center will relocate to Rio Dell as of today, with local operations at the Rio Dell Community Resource Center – located at 406 Wildwood Ave. – extended to Feb. 10. It’s open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The Disaster Loan Outreach Center can help residents, businesses and some private nonprofit organizations determine whether they are eligible for low-interest disaster loans through the SBA to help cover earthquake losses and in completing applications.

For several reasons, the Rio Dell bore the brunt of the Dec. 20 quake, which shook there with the third-highest intensity recorded in California despite being 17 miles from the epicenter. The 5.4 aftershock hit much closer, retraumatizing already traumatized residents and causing more damage.

“The city of Rio Dell is thrilled to have the SBA disaster loan team extend their time with us,” Kyle Knopp, Rio Dell’s city manager, said in an OES release. “It is no question that Rio Dell was hit hardest by the earthquakes, and we hope this extension will be able to connect more residents in Rio Dell with much-needed assistance. If you or your business has been impacted by the earthquakes, I encourage you to visit the SBA Disaster Loan Outreach Center to learn more about the disaster loan assistance program and other help that may be available to you.”

According to the OES, more than $3 million in disaster loans have been issued to local residents while more than $330,000 has gone to businesses for “earthquake repair and recovery purposes.”

“We are incredibly grateful to our federal agency partners at the SBA who recognized the need to extend their presence in our community to connect more community members and business owners in Rio Dell with their services,” said Scott Adair, Humboldt County director of economic development. “During this time where our community, like others, have experienced consecutive periods of inflation and recession, in addition to being impacted by natural disasters, the loan services SBA provides are critical to help the community recover economically.”

Applicants may also apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information and download applications at, call 1-800-659-2955 or email
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About The Author

Kimberly Wear

Kimberly Wear is the assistant editor of the North Coast Journal.

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