As winds whipped across Zelda’s on the Beach’s barren deck Tuesday afternoon, California Gov. Gavin Newsom promised crowds that financial assistance would come down the pipeline just as soon as all the damages from the storms had been assessed.
“As soon as all the damage assessments are collected—then we’ll be able to make a much sounder judgment and assessment of what we actually will deliver and how, and under what circumstances in terms of timelines,” Newsom said.
After ducking in and out of the empty restaurants and meeting with several small business owners who have shops along the Esplanade, Newsom echoed a similar statement regarding aid for small businesses, again pointing to the need for assessments before making any financial promises.
“We’ll do our best,” Newsom said. “I don’t want to over-promise you, but this will be assessed, and obviously, the state’s intention, as is the federal government’s, is to help in the short run and the long run.”
Newsom’s visit came as Santa Cruz entered its second week of disastrous storms—and the state faces more atmospheric rivers. As of Tuesday, there have been 17 confirmed deaths related to weather conditions across the state, Newsom said: more than have died in the past two years related to wildfires, according to his count. 163,000 people are without power, and over 48,000 Californians are under evacuation orders, according to his count.
“These conditions are serious, and they’re deadly,” Newsom said.
On Sunday evening, in response to the statewide weather conditions, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for California, which authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate all disaster relief efforts.
On Tuesday morning, the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors approved their own slew of local emergency proclamations at their first meeting of the year. The county estimated that as of Jan. 9, damages in unincorporated county regions were over $29 million, including more than $21 million in road damages.
Just hours before arriving in Santa Cruz, Newsom presented the state’s budget, which he referenced in front of the crowd in Capitola. His budget includes a two-year, $135 million general fund allocation to reduce local urban flood risk. It also has $8.6 billion earmarked for local water infrastructure efforts.
“The days are getting a lot drier in the last three years, and the wets are getting a lot wetter,” Newsom said. “This weather whiplash is the new reality.”
He stressed the importance of staying vigilant until the storm passes.
“This place is soaked,” he said. “And now, just a modest amount of precipitation can have an equal or greater impact in terms of the conditions on the ground, and that’s why it’s incredibly important that everybody is mindful to take seriously the orders or recommendations that come from law enforcement—don’t tempt fate.”