SACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today announced President Barack Obama has declared a major disaster declaration for Calaveras, Imperial, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Siskiyou counties after winter storms pounded the state beginning in January. This declaration will release federal funds to help communities recover from the effects of these storms.

“This action by President Obama will get assistance where it’s needed most. It will also help reduce a significant portion of the financial burden the storms have placed on communities throughout California,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “It’s important that we’re doing all we can to help these communities recover from the damaging effects of those powerful storms.”

The Governor requested the major disaster declaration on February 11 after a series of preliminary damage assessments conducted by representatives of the California Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the affected counties identified more than $59.1 million in estimated costs eligible for reimbursement by FEMA and more than $33.3 million in estimated costs eligible for reimbursement by the Federal Highway Administration.

The declaration, signed by President Obama, makes state and local agencies as well as certain private non-profit organizations in the declared counties eligible to apply for federal reimbursement for costs related to the implementation of emergency protective measures, debris removal and the repair and restoration of public facilities damaged by the severe storms, flooding, mudslides and mudflows that began on January 17, 2010.

Funds from FEMA to local and state government agencies as well as eligible non-profit organizations after a major disaster declaration are provided on a cost-share basis and usually allocated as work is completed, with FEMA paying 75 percent of the eligible costs. Under current state law, the State of California covers up to 75 percent of the non-federal share for local government agencies that are responsible for the remaining non-federal share.

Although state agencies, Indian tribes and private non-profit organizations that provide emergency medical care, power, water, wastewater treatment, communications, education and other critical government-type services to the general public are eligible to apply for federal assistance, they are not eligible to apply for California Disaster Assistance Act funds.

In addition to making the six declared counties eligible for federal reimbursement of disaster related emergency response, debris removal and repair and restoration costs, the President’s declaration enables local, state and private non-profit agencies throughout California with approved hazard mitigation plans to compete for funds under FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program to reduce the risk of deaths, injuries and property losses in future disasters.

Hazard mitigation grants are provided on a cost-share basis, with FEMA providing 75 percent of the funds and the recipient agency responsible for the remaining 25 percent by using its own funds or in-kind contributions.

Last month, the Governor announced that the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) declared a disaster for several Southern California counties, making affected homeowners, renters, business owners and non-profit organizations eligible to apply for low-interest disaster loans from SBA to cover physical damages caused by the severe winter storms, heavy snows, flooding, debris flows and mudflows that began on January 17. This action was a result of the Governor’s letter on February 11 requesting a disaster declaration by SBA.