$20M in cash assistance arrives for Pajaro flood victims

It has been over a year since a levee break flooded the farming community of Pajaro, and on Wednesday residents lined up for the first day of an expanded recovery financial aid program.

This aid is being distributed directly to impacted families and businesses and residents say it is sorely needed.

When the application center opened inside a tent at Pajaro Park, the line to register for this aid program stretched onto the sidewalk.

The high demand for aid — more than a year after the floods, just goes to show how hard the community was hit and how the road to a full recovery remains long.

The levee holding back the Pajaro River broke in March 2023, and nearly the entire town was wiped out.

Homes and cars were flooded and destroyed and those living there had to evacuate to shelters, hotels and to live with friends or family.

"I moved out, lost my car. That was the main thing, I lost my car," said Pajaro resident Martin Estrada, who was waiting in line at the application center.

"So when we were evacuating our street was like a river already. And so we had to leave behind our animals. And when we got home three weeks later, there had been water under the house and there was water seeping up through the floors," said Pajaro resident Lorina Mohammed.

Many residents said they were able to get short-term help for housing and other immediate living assistance from federal and state programs. However, Monterey County is managing $20 million worth of direct financial aid to both businesses and residents.


Pajaro residents question levee's integrity after breach causes massive flooding

Thousands of residents in Pajaro remained out of their homes Monday as another winter storm headed for the Central Coast.

Businesses could receive up to $100,000 to help with rebuilding and any individual household could receive up to $15,000 in cash assistance if all requirements are met and documented.

"So we are encouraging all the residents in Pajaro who were living and were evacuated on March 10th to come and apply," said Mindy Esqueda with the Monterey County Department of Emergency Management.

The money comes from the state which approved special legislation to help with the recovery in Pajaro.

Supervisor Glenn Church, who represents Pajaro, said the rebuilding process has brought the community together in a way he never thought possible.

Church feels the community could come back even better than before.

"There have been multiple floods, and it has always been like putting a band-aid on it and moving on. This time is different. The residents here are more organized," Church said.

Back at the assistance line, Lorina Mohammed said any cash assistance would be a huge help.

"It would be so amazing, it would be so amazing," Mohammed said.

This center will be open Tuesday through Saturday, April 27.