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Small Business Owner Hurt By The Rain? Help Could Come If Disaster Declared

A man in a maroon-colored apron and winter hat stands smiling in front of a car stacked with plastic containers of fruit, bags and chicharrones and other snacks.
Long-time Santa Ana street vendor José Rodriguez has only been able to work a few days in 2023 because of the wet weather.
(Jill Replogle
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President Biden authorized emergency help for most of California this week — it's the first step in potentially getting federal help for small businesses affected by the record-breaking rains, which have caused major flooding, tree falls and landslides in some areas.

Kevin Wynne, a spokesperson for the Small Business Administration's Office of Economic Recovery and Resilience, said affected businesses should contact their county office of emergency management.

"Let them know what kind of damage you suffered both economically and/or physically," he said.

That information is collected at the state level to request an official disaster declaration from the federal government – California Gov. Gavin Newsom took this step on Thursday. If granted, the Small Business Administration has several programs that provide loans and other assistance to businesses and individuals affected by disasters.

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In Santa Ana, Rain Zaps Work For Some

The chain of atmospheric rivers hitting Southern California has, ironically, dried up business for street vendors, construction workers and others who make their living outdoors.

Despite the warm, sunny day Thursday — the warmest and sunniest we're likely to get until the middle of next week, according to the National Weather Service — foot traffic was minimal in downtown Santa Ana.

José Rodriguez has been selling fruit cups, chicharrones and other snacks from his street cart here for almost 30 years. But business these days, he said, is particularly bad.

"Rain, rain, rain, rain, rain," he said, noting that he's mostly stayed home since the beginning of the year.

Rodriguez said the continuous rain adds to a string of factors that were already strangling his business — the change in clientele on Santa Ana's gentrifying Fourth Street, then the pandemic, then construction on the OC Streetcar, which closed Fourth Street to traffic for many months last year.

Street vendors aren't the only ones losing business. A block away, Matt Hanzel of Hanzel Construction was taking advantage of the break in rain to pour concrete for a wheelchair ramp.

"But in two days, it's going to start raining again," he said. "Hence my guys have to sit at home and they don't make any money."

Hanzel said he's constantly checking the weather and rescheduling work these days. But that's not unusual during the rainy season, he said, we've just forgotten because of the long drought.

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How To Contact Your County

Los Angeles Office of Emergency Management

Orange County Emergency Management Division

Riverside Emergency Management Department

Santa Barbara Office of Emergency Management

San Bernardino Office of Emergency Services

Ventura Office of Emergency Services
805-654-2551 or use the online form to report storm damage

What questions do you have about the weather we're experiencing?
A massive winter storm is hitting Southern California. We're here to answer your questions.

Updated January 13, 2023 at 2:34 PM PST
This story has been updated to reflect California Gov. Gavin Newsom's request to the federal government on Thursday.
Updated January 13, 2023 at 12:02 PM PST
The contact information for the Los Angeles Office of Emergency Management has been updated in this story.