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California provided $20 million to help Pajaro recover. Here’s how Monterey County decided to spend it

A Pajaro resident cleans up his street after floods in March 2023 devastated the community.
Jerimiah Oetting
/
KAZU News
A Pajaro resident cleans up his street after floods in March 2023 devastated the community.

Monterey County supervisors agreed to a plan on Wednesday that delineates how $20 million of state funding will be spent in the community of Pajaro.

The windfall was appropriated by the state to aid in Pajaro’s recovery following last winter’s storms, which devastated families, damaged homes and businesses, and left the low-income farming community struggling to rebuild.

Supervisors deliberated for two days over the competing priorities of immediate relief to families and funding other projects, including long-neglected infrastructure.

“It’s a one-time shot here of $20 million,” said Monterey County District Two Supervisor Glenn Church, who represents Pajaro. “And it’s to try to build some resiliency in the community. This is a rare opportunity.”

The money can go directly to residents and businesses, including undocumented residents who did not receive federal aid in the aftermath of the storms.

During a lengthy period of public comment, several community members pushed the county to prioritize direct relief to families and businesses. They asked the county to double the $6 million carved out for direct relief in the initial proposal to $12 million.

Jessica Guzman, one of the speakers, said many of the projects in the county’s proposal were not tied to flood recovery.

“I do want to say that many of the items on the budget proposal are issues that already existed before the floods,” Guzman said. “The money allocated to such items would be better used in economic relief for families.”

A slide from Monterey County staff shows compromises made after two days of deliberating over how to spend $20 million of state funding in Pajaro.
A slide from Monterey County staff shows the approved project proposal, including compromises made after two days of deliberating over how to spend $20 million of state funding in Pajaro.

In the end, the county settled on $10 million in direct relief for residents and businesses.

The rest of the $20 million is split across several other projects, including infrastructure like sidewalk repair and street lights, much-needed work on the public library, and even a new sign to greet visitors as they enter the community.

Money was also set aside for improving preparedness for future emergencies, including a digital message board that could communicate emergency information and alerts.

All of the $20 million must be spent by the end of 2025.

Find a copy of the county's presentation describing the different projects, along with the county's initial proposal below.

Jerimiah Oetting is KAZU’s news director. Prior to his career in public media, he was a field biologist with the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service.
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