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KCBX News Update: Biden visits California, SLO County COVID testing sites to close and more

biden santa cruz
Kori Suzuki/KQED
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President Biden greets California Governor Gavin Newsom, Senator Alex Padilla and other officials as he descends from Air Force One at Moffett Federal Airfield on Thursday, January 19, 2023. Biden is in California to visit areas damaged by the recent winter storms in Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.

President Biden visits Santa Cruz County to survey storm damage

Storm damage on the Central Coast and throughout California is bringing federal resources and attention to the state.

President Joe Biden toured storm damaged areas of California’s coast today, including hard-hit Santa Cruz County, to get a firsthand look at the destruction caused by a series of atmospheric rivers that slammed the state this month. The President spoke after walking along a splintered boardwalk in Capitola.

"We are cautiously optimistic that the worst part is behind," Biden said. "The waters recede, but we'll see the full extent of the damage, the homes, the businesses, and the farms and ranches. We know some of the destruction is going to take years to fully recover and rebuild. But we gotta not just rebuild, but we gotta rebuild better.”

California has been hit with nine atmospheric rivers in recent weeks. At least 20 people have died in the storms and destruction has been reported by 41 of the state’s 58 counties.

Seven now fall under the President’s Major disaster declaration after San Joaquin was added today. Federal officials say 500 FEMA and other personnel have been deployed to California to support emergency aid operations.

SLO, Santa Barbara and Monterey Counties are also included in the major disaster declaration. That means residents in these counties can visit DisasterAssistance.gov to see if they qualify for direct federal assistance from FEMA.

hibiscus court
Benjamin Purper
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Hibiscus Court in Santa Maria saw major damage from this month's storm.

Three SLO County COVID-19 testing sites to close

Three SLO County COVID-19 testing sites are closing tomorrow, January 20. Testing sites in San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, and Grover Beach are closing for good after a loss of state funding.

The SLO County Public Health Department said their community testing sites have conducted more than 250,000 tests since the start of the pandemic in 2020. However, as home testing becomes more widely available, in-person tests have decreased to an average of 30 a day.

Rapid home tests are still available for free through the U.S. government, and many health care providers in SLO county now offer COVID-19 testing.

For more information on local COVID-19 testing, visit slopublichealth.org/COVID19.

Central Coast businesses eligible for SBA assistance

Central Coast business owners affected by recent storms can now apply for financial assistance through the Small Business Administration. The SBA provides low-interest, long-term loans for economic and physical damage from declared disasters.

Business owners who’ve suffered financial losses can apply at DisasterAssistance.sba.gov. There’s also federal aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) available to residents in SLO, Santa Barbara and Monterey Counties.

For questions, contact the SLO County Office of Emergency Services.

40 Prado Homeless Services Center opens warming center

The warming center at 40 Prado Rd will open tonight because of low temperatures.

The San Luis Obispo center says it will provide 20 warm beds, a hot shower, and a hot meal overnight. Guests can check in tonight between 7 and 9pm tonight.

40 Prado expanded its services during this month’s storm and say they need volunteers and donations to keep it going. Volunteers can help with general tasks including check in, serving meals, setting up cots, and other tasks.

More information is at capslo.org.

This story contains reporting from the CapRadio Network available to public radio stations in California.

KCBX News is run by News Director Benjamin Purper and overseen by Program and Content Director Marisa Waddell. Gabriela Fernandez and Amanda Wernik are the current reporters. Posts by "KCBX News Staff" reflect collaborative writing and reporting from multiple news team members and may include work from Benjamin, Gabriela, Amanda and newsroom interns/volunteers.
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