Since the Thomas Fire and accompanying economic meltdown in Santa Barbara, Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV) has been struggling to accommodate the increased need for assistance among its business clients. Concerned that as many as 40 percent of small businesses go under after the disruption of a disaster, according to statistics from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, WEV founder Marcia Bailey and her staff have been looking to set up a one-stop assistance center for businesses that suddenly find themselves operating in the red for way too long. Hutton-Parker Foundation and United Way have given $175,000 in funding to provide that help.

The new grants enable the entrepreneur-encouraging group to hire extra staffers to meet with business owners — of any sex — to advise them on the availability of disaster assistance and to produce targeted marketing aimed at drawing customers to businesses, which continue to reel from the Thomas Fire and mudflood aftermath. Increasing sales for small businesses and an organized “buy local” campaign are among the initiatives to be pursued by the three new staffers the grants will help hire.

“We knew local business owners would need more help to sustain their businesses after the disaster than we could provide with our current staff,” said Marsha Bailey, WEV CEO and founder. “Thanks to generous support from the Hutton-Parker Foundation and Santa Barbara’s United Way, we can bring on additional employees to implement the first, critical stage of our local economic recovery efforts.”

Two full-time positions will be devoted to the business assistance and marketing programs, as well as a part-timer for programs. Interested applicants can find out more at

Two other disaster assistance programs available to homeowners, renters, and businesses are federal grants and loans. The window to apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) help ends March 16. More than $3.7 million has been approved in grants for individual assistance through FEMA for the Southern California disasters. Though FEMA can’t duplicate insurance or other benefits, the grants can be used toward uninsured or underinsured items, rental requirements, and essential home repairs. Also, the Small Business Administration (SBA) offers loans for personal property replacement. Up to $40,000 is available to renters and up to $200,000 for repairs for homeowners.

Representatives from both FEMA and SBA have been working at the Disaster Recovery Center being hosted at Calvary Chapel (1 Calle César Chávez) almost since the Thomas Fire began and will remain there until 3 p.m. on Saturday. That facility will become known as the Disaster Loan Outreach Center starting on Monday and only SBA representatives will remain on staff. FEMA help will remain available, at least through March 16 when the window closes, at or (800) 621-3362.


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