Calif.’s Feinstein, Boxer Urge Federal Disaster Declaration for Freeze

March 9, 2007

President Bush’s signature is the last step needed to get federal disaster money flowing to the 31 California counties that were hit hard in the January freeze, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said.

The freeze devastated more than $1.32 billion in citrus crops and other produce — the most devastating blow to the industry in more than a decade.

Since January, the California Office of Emergency Services has provided more than $2 billion to local food banks and $1.75 million in emergency funds.

If Bush grants the state’s Feb. 2 request to declare a federal disaster in counties affected by the freeze, it would open up a crucial new funding source to help affected families, Schwarzenegger said in a letter to the president, which was co-signed by Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.

“State and local groups can only provide so much assistance during disasters, and it is the responsibility of the federal government to help shoulder the burden in times of crisis,” said the letter. “Your signature is the last hurdle to clear before federal assistance can begin flowing to the thousands of workers and their families.”

The cold snap also left 28,000 farmworkers without work, according to the United Farm Workers, and ravaged the San Joaquin Valley’s agriculture-intensive economy.

Feinstein and Boxer also hope to add money for the state’s farmers to an emergency war funding bill Congress will take up this spring.

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