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$19.1 Billion Disaster Relief Bill


Washington DC, USA - January 20, 2017: An internet live news channel streams President Trump signing executive orders following his inauguration.President Trump signed a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill intended to provide assistance to communities grappling with recovery from wildfires, flooding, and hurricanes. That includes those of us who lived through the Thomas Fire and the 1/9 Debris Flow. The Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act, signed into law on June 6, allocates funds to assist with recovery and prevention in places affected by natural disasters in the past three years.

Earlier this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statement thanking the federal government for helping communities recover from disasters that occurred over the last three years, including the Thomas Fire and debris flow that followed.

“I want to thank President Trump and Congress for bringing much-needed relief to communities impacted by wildfires and other natural disasters,” Newsom said in a statement. “This legislation will bring our state critical disaster funding to help Californians rebuild and recover.”

Last year, California suffered its costliest and most deadly wildfire season on record. More than 1 million acres were burned, and dozens of people died as a result of the infernos. The act provides $720 million to the U.S. Forest Service for fire suppression activities.

The legislation includes $1.6 billion for repairing damaged highways and $120 million for the National Park Service to help restore damaged public lands. States such as Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Dakota have faced massive flood damage this year, leaving farms across the states devastated. The bill provides $4.5 billion to the Department of Agriculture, which will be used for emergency timber restoration, watershed recovery work, road repair, and farmland restoration. The legislation also allows the department to pay compensation for the loss of stored grain due to the flooding.

In addition, the legislation provides $600 million for nutrition assistance in Puerto Rico, where residents are still reeling from Hurricane Maria. The 2017 hurricane knocked out much of the infrastructure in the island territory and killed hundreds of people. In addition, the act provides $304 million in Community Development Block Grant funding for Puerto Rico.

Read: Montecito Community Leadership Forms The Partnership for Resilient Communities

Local Heroes

Cover of Montecito Lifestyle Magazine with local heros

Image by Linda Blue

As I wrote about in December of last year, inspired by their father John “Hoani” Braid and his generous response to the Montecito Tea Fire of 2008, Patrick Braid and his brother trudged through the mudflow left by the 9/1 Debris Flow and the disaster left by Thomas Fire. They headed up to the family-owned Village Cheese & Wine Store to survey the disaster firsthand. What they found was devastating.

With the help of a donated generator and special access from the CHP, they sprang into action, flipped the sign in the window to OPEN, and began providing food and refuge for the first responders. Eventually, stranded local residents showed up for food and stayed to volunteer. Even firefighters helped make sandwiches, and soon this little shop in the upper village of Montecito became a hub for a spirited community ready to help each other heal. 

“During the day of the debris flow, the shop was at ground zero for these public servants,” Braid explained. “We hand-carved over 100 sandwiches for hungry, thankful crews.”

​In fact, the shop served twenty fire engines, the National Guard Reserve, Swift Water rescue, local police agencies, and residents. The shop became a makeshift grocery store for isolated residents in the following weeks: a beacon of hope during a dark time.

Read: 6 Steps to Protect Your Home from Wildfires

From that disaster, the local entrepreneur created a new umbrella company called Montecito Brands Inc. which includes gourmet products, coffee, and wine, all inspired by the brave first responders his little shop cared for during the disaster.

“Our mission is to offer premium gourmet consumable products, coffee and wine to help families and communities ravaged by natural disasters,” Braid explains. “While these gourmet products are luxury brands that live up to the quality and prestige that Montecito is famous for, customers can feel good about paying a slight premium for things that truly make a difference.”

The website explains it like this: “Each and every product we create celebrates the beauty and prestige of a Montecito lifestyle, from locally and organically grown olives and olive oil to locally roasted premium coffees, to the best wines that Santa Barbara County has to offer. But our mission is to go one step further. Not only do we seek to celebrate coastal California’s beauty and vitality, we aim to honor it by helping to rebuild and sustain the strength of the communities impacted by natural disaster.”

Out of this spirit of giving, a group of leaders came together with Braid to create a community-based non-profit committed to providing funds and needed relief and support here in Montecito, California and eventually other regions impacted by fire and other natural disasters. That’s how the Montecito Recovery Fund (MVRC) was created.

Montecito Village Recovery Fund is built upon the principle that local community members and leaders are best equipped to assess the needs of the 400+ families and businesses most affected by the catastrophe. The fund’s priorities are to assess the needs of the victims, to ensure donations raised remain in the community, and to restore confidence in the vitality of Montecito throughout the process of revitalization despite storm events projected to occur over the next five years.

Overall, the purpose of the MVRC will be to act as a conduit to provide funds and resources to properly registered and functioning 501(c)(3) organizations providing needed relief and support in Montecito and other regions impacted by fire and other natural disasters.

My friend Patrick’s story is just one example of the types of neighbors we have here in Montecito. His help, along with our share of the $19.1 Billion Disaster Bill will help us to continue in our recovery efforts. 

If you live in Montecito, you know what a proud and resilient community it is and how residents come together to provide disaster relief. If you’re considering moving here, but have been hesitating due to the rare and unfortunate whims of Mother Nature over a year ago, don’t hesitate any longer. Once you move here, you’ll rejoice as a member of the Montecito family. Whatever your present or future plans might be when it comes to the purchase or sale of a home here, I’m always available to discuss your wants, needs, and goals.  Just give me a call at 805.886.9378 or email me at


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