- Disaster Recovery
California has experienced its share of wildfires. Nothing, however, could prepare the Golden State for the devastation of the 2018 Camp Fire. The historic and unprecedented conflagration laid waste to a large section of mountainous and semi-rural Butte County, going down as the single most devastating fire disaster in state history. In addition to nearly 100 fatalities, the wildfire all but erased the picturesque town of Paradise from the map. Approximately 90 percent of its homes were destroyed and a fire tornado that tore through the area was so intense it melted survey markers.
Barely had the embers from the Camp Fire stopped smouldering, than local officials and community members began outlining their vision for a restored town. Disaster support provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Federal Highway Administration offered some of the resources the town needed to rebuild, however, in the totality of the devastation Paradise’s leaders saw an opportunity for the town to also reimagine. A recovery proposal conceived several new development goals that would improve a restored Paradise for both commerce and residents. Critical projects included higher density and more affordable housing, business corridors, and evacuation routes that could mitigate the impacts of future disasters.
With its limited resources stretched thin, Paradise was unable to engage in the detailed scoping work needed to put the town’s ambitious plans into action. In early 2020, municipal engineer Marc Mattox reached out to the Economic Development Administration (EDA) for assistance.
“It’s really difficult at the local level to find grants and opportunities for planning; that really meticulous work in design and scoping that has to be done before construction,” explained Mattox. “We viewed an EDA grant as a great opportunity to hit so many of our objectives.”
In October 2020, Paradise was awarded a $1.8 million Economic Adjustment Assistance grant from EDA to support the development of a master plan that would guide the recovery and redevelopment of the community’s transportation infrastructure. Funded by the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act of 2019, which provided EDA with $600 million in additional funds for disaster relief and recovery, the grant supplied Paradise with the resources it needed to potentially access additional state and federal investment.
Less than two years later, the town’s work — and EDA’s investment — paid off. Planning and scoping supported by the grant allowed Paradise to fully articulate its needs to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program. In August 2022, Paradise learned it qualified for $200 million in CDBG-DR funds, the largest single grant awarded by HUD that year. Mattox credits the $1.8 million in seed money from EDA with enabling it to submit a competitive and successful application.
“There is no way the town would have been able to respond in the absence of the EDA grant,” said Mattox. “It’s been such an important part of our recovery curve.”
EDA serves as the coordinating agency for the Economic Recovery Support Function of the National Disaster Recovery Framework, providing leadership, coordination and oversight for primary and support agencies, all of which share a role in the provision of grants, loans, training and other forms of assistance to support economic recovery efforts in disaster-impacted communities and regions. Learn more about EDA’s role in disaster recovery.