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California Wildfires: What Is Being Done For Impacted Small Businesses?

Two months have passed since the Woolsey Fire in SoCal and Camp Fire in NorCal burned through hundreds of thousands of acres, took dozens of lives, and caused billions of dollars in damage. Homes and businesses were destroyed, putting the livelihood of tens of thousands of people at risk.

Many CAMEO members and partner organizations have been hard at work providing counseling, loans, and grants to small business owners whose shops and offices were lost or damaged in the fires. Applications for SBA loans for businesses that sustained physical damage are due this Friday – January 11, 2019 (see more below).

Here are a few of the nonprofits and agencies assisting in this effort:


As the federal agency in charge of small business assistance, SBA plays a large role every wildfire season making sure small businesses and small business-oriented organizations alike are aware of the government funding available for disaster relief and recovery. In its most recent California declaration, the agency made available the following assistance for Butte, Los Angeles, Ventura, and contiguous counties:

  • Business Loans of up to $2,000,000 for the repair or replacement of real estate, inventories, machinery, equipment, and all other physical losses.
  • Economic Injury Disaster Loans  (EIDL) of up to $2,000,000 for alleviating economic injury caused by the disaster, available only to entities and their owners who cannot provide for their own recovery from non-government sources.
  • Home Loans of up to $200,000 for the repair or replacement of real estate and $40,000 to repair or replace personal property.

Applications for businesses that sustained physical damage are due January 11, 2019, while applications for economic injury are due August 12, 2019.

California SBDCs

Small Business Development Centers throughout California have been providing free one-on-one advising to help small businesses assess how the disaster has impacted them, come up with solutions to minimize damages, access available resources and adjust their operations to maximize their survival. They are also helping small business owners in unaffected areas prepare for cases of disaster through workshops and informational sessions.


As an organization that serves Butte County, where the Camp Fire occurred, 3CORE has seen the effects of this catastrophe first-hand. And as a nonprofit dedicated to economic development, they have been uniquely positioned to help mitigate the disaster’s impact on the area’s small business community. 

Throughout the months of November and December, 3CORE acted as a connector and resource pool between small business owners, partner agencies, donors, and the government. They fielded calls and requests from affected parties, researched and mapped businesses in the area, made referrals to partner organizations, and reached out to government agencies to participate in the recovery plan. As of January 4, 2019, 3CORE had:

  • Received an average of 28 Camp Fire assistance inquiries per week
  • Logged 96 assistance applications totaling $54,882
  • Funded 15 seed grants totaling $59,895
  • Provided 3 disaster-related term loans totaling $395,000
  • Received $565,000 in donations

Jefferson Economic Development Institute (JEDI)

The Women’s Business Center at JEDI is assisting small business owners in their rebuilding efforts after the Carr, Delta, Hirz a and Camp Fires swept through the region. Along with their full spectrum of business development training, they have:

  • Assisted business owners to assess their losses, analyze their opportunities and build a path forward
  • Helped many businesses apply for the SBA Economic Injury loans and 3 have received loans
  • Held new workshops on topics such as resiliency, leadership, and preparedness

“As devastating as disasters can be for people, families, businesses, and communities, they also become inflection points and a time when strength comes forth in unexpected ways,” said Nancy T. Swift, Executive Director of JEDI. ” We have seen this time and time again among small business owners considering their path forward and helping others along the way too.”

Superior California Economic Development District (SCEDD)

SCEDD is an organization that provides commercial real estate loans and refinancing, business loans, and economic development planning to entrepreneurs in Northern California. They are based in Redding, an area that was heavily affected by the Carr and Klamathon fires last summer. SCEDD has been offering grant and loan programs by using a combination of funding from Wells Fargo Foundation and their own private loan fund. Most of the inquiries they received in the immediate aftermath of the fire were from businesses whose operations were interrupted due to smoke, evacuations, and temporary drop off of their customer base. Given the interruptions in the normal economic cycle, the organization has focused on providing marketing grants to help businesses ramp up marketing to their existing customer base as well as to attract new customers. Grants and loans will continue to be provided throughout 2019 to those businesses whose sales remain low as a result of the disaster.

This is only a small sample of all the work that is being done to help the small business communities affected by recent disasters. Other organizations, such as the International Economic Development Council, have focused on lobbying the government for disaster assistance funds to be specifically allocated to economic recovery. In late November, the IEDC asked the federal government for $600 million in disaster assistance funding for the Economic Development Administration.

With the current government shutdown, federal funding for disaster relief is not affected. If you have clients whose businesses have been affected by the California fires, make sure they apply for the SBA loans before the deadline or refer them to partner organizations like 3CORE and JEDI