In an ongoing effort to help survivors of the November 2008 wildfire in the foothills of Santa Barbara and Montecito, the Santa Barbara Tea Fire Response Fund is disbursing $148,870 to 41 fire victims. This week marks the the second of four distributions of donated funds. Checks will be sent within 10 business days of Thursday, April 2. To date, the Tea Fire Response Fund, a collaborative community partnership organized by the United Way of Santa Barbara County, has received more than $434,000 in donations to aid the survivors of the Tea Fire.
George Leis, president and CEO of Santa Barbara Bank & Trust noted that this aid is the result of the community’s generosity. “We are grateful to all those who have generously donated to the fund, the dedicated volunteer committee members, and the organizations that have made it possible for 100 percent of the funds to go directly to those affected by the fire,” he said in a prepared statement released Thursday. “This assistance will go a long way in helping these individuals rebuild their lives.”
In February, 21 individuals received funds from the first disbursement, which totaled $77,203. The Tea Fire Response Fund will distribute the remaining funds - which total over $200,000 - before Dec. 31 of this year. Paul Didier, president and CEO of the United Way of Santa Barbara County, said people who qualify for the aid might not be aware of the Tea Fire Response Fund or may not have applied yet. “We don’t want to miss anyone who is deserving of this assistance.”
To qualify for assistance, individuals apply for Tea Fire funds at the Red Cross located at 2707 State Street. There, they fill out a four-page form identifying their needs and the approximate amount of monetary loss. A professional disaster case manager at the Red Cross will work with applicants and review their requests. Applications approved by the case manager are then sent to a subcommittee of 13 volunteer public and private organizations. Recommendations from the subcommittee are then reviewed by an eight-member oversight committee of local community leaders. Requests at any step of the review process can be sent back for further investigation. The three-tiered screening process ensures that only those who lived in the area of the fire and who suffered loss because of the fire receive the funds.
Didier said the average disbursement checks range from $100-$10,000, with the average check being $3,500-$4,000 per person. The next meeting of the Oversight Committee is scheduled for June 5.
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Allison M. Jones is an Independent intern.