Rep. Raul Ruiz urged President Donald Trump Monday to send over $150 million in federal disaster relief funds to desert business owners and residents overwhelmed by damage caused by Valentine’s Day floods.
“I urge President Trump to issue a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration in order to help hundreds of families and local businesses qualify for federal resources and get back on their feet,” said Ruiz, D-Palm Desert.
“We must support the people who, due to road damage, endure long drives to medical appointments, loss of customers to their small business, and longer commutes to work.”
Major damage was widespread throughout the eastern Riverside County, including extensive damage to highways and roadways that caused long-term closures — some of which are still shutdown due to repairs.
Closures lasting nearly two months due to the flood damage included Cathedral Canyon Drive in Cathedral City, 25 locations along Highway 243 — which spans 30 miles between Banning and Mountain Center — and 40 points of damage along the 74, according to CalTrans.
While Highway 243 is open to general traffic from Mountain Center to the Idyllwild-Pine Cove community, a 15-mile segment of Highway 74 remains closed from Valle Vista, just east of Hemet, to Mountain Center.
Even major attractions were down for an extended period of time, including the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which reopened on April 1.
Tramway officials said nearly 100,000 visitors were displaced due to a 46-day closure, and projected that nearly $4 million was lost to repair costs and ticket revenue.
On Saturday, Gov. Gavin Newsom also sent a letter to Trump detailing the severity of the flood on state thoroughfares, noting that over $157 million worth of damages was projected in over 30 counties statewide for roadways alone.
“I have determined that these atmospheric river storm system are of such severity and magnitude that continued effective response is beyond the capability of the state and affected local governments, and supplemental federal assistance is necessary,” Newsom concluded in his letter.
“Based upon the joint preliminary damage assessments, I am requested all available disaster assistance under the Stafford Act.”
The overall financial impact from the roadway damages in eastern Riverside County is not clear.
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