California Retrofit Grants to Safeguard Your Home for the Next Earthquake

California Retrofit Grants to Safeguard Your Home for the Next Earthquake

The Federal Emergency Management Agency — FEMA — has provided the State of California a massive grant in the amount of $20 million. This is primarily for its Brace and Bolt program, otherwise called EBB. The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, better known as Cal OES and the California Earthquake Authority or CEA will use the funds to subsidize 6,300 structures that are badly needed for retrofits. These are at-risk structures that are likely to sustain substantial damage to their foundations in the event of the next earthquake by sliding off their foundations.

The State of California will have to contribute earmarked public funds in addition to the $20 million matching grant by FEMA. Homeowners will help subsidize the fund as well by contributing the remaining $1.3 million. The State of California will provide the additional $13 million to meet the demand of homeowners with homes built in the early 20th century.

FEMA released the first batch of funds mid-January 2020. Once additional applications for earthquake assistance are approved, FEMA will release the next batch of funds. During the past 30 years, FEMA has assisted the residents of California with grants totaling over $1.3 billion. The mission of FEMA is to assist federally recognized tribes, non-profit institutions, and local communities to become more resilient in the case of a natural disaster.

Housing Structures That Are Eligible for the Retrofit Grant

Families would more likely be able to stay in their homes during an earthquake with a home that is EBB certified and code-compliant.

Older homes that have wood frames right below the first floor are chiefly vulnerable to seismic variations underneath the earth’s crust. A carpenter will retrofit a house by bolting the living room floor to its foundation, and by bracing walls with wood to prevent a total collapse during an earthquake. A house will need plywood reinforcement if wood-framed walls are right underneath the foundation.

The State of California is now accepting grant applications to retrofit older structures. Californians can apply to get grants up to $3,000. Approximately 1.2 million homes in California are likely to sustain significant damage in an earthquake. Most of these homes were built prior to 1940, and they have large crawlspaces between the living room and the foundation. Homes built before 1980 are also eligible.

The Cost for a Retrofit Job

In Southern California, it costs $3,000 to $3,500 for a bolt-provided retrofit job. If a home only needs a plywood fix, the homeowner is looking at spending $3,900 for the upgrade.

The costs for a retrofit job in Northern California are significantly more than for those residents who reside in the southern part of the state. According to Janiele Maffei, a chief engineer with California Earthquake Authority, retrofits cost $7,000 because Northern California homes are more complicated and labor costs are more expensive.

During the 2014 Napa Valley earthquake that was 6.0 on the Richter scale — which can cause major damage in heavily populated cities — retrofitted homes survived the catastrophe, but their counterparts were not so lucky. Residents were forced to leave their unreinforced structures and seek shelter elsewhere.

Even though a properly built and retrofitted home can cost a homeowner several thousands of dollars, it is more expensive in the long run to repair a home that has sustained damage from a major earthquake. It only takes a local contractor 2 to 3 days to retrofit a home properly.

Getting Benefits

FEMA recommends that homeowners get two or three quotes before commencing work on their homes. Search for local contractors on the state’s website at

Once on the website, homeowners will complete a questionnaire and register for the program. If selected, you will receive notification in the mail. It is not required that you submit any proof that your home qualifies for a retrofit.

After you have received a bid from a local contractor, you are responsible for any charges that exceed the maximum amount of the grant. For jobs that are less than $3,000, the program will only reimburse you for the exact amount.

Funds are taxable. Homeowners will receive form 1099 in the mail for the incentive payments. In order to receive the funds, homeowners must provide cost estimates, pictures, and receipts.

Once your contractor completes the retrofit job and you submit all required documentation, you will receive payment in the form of a check in approximately three weeks by CRMP.

Eligible Communities

Homeowners who live in certain zip codes are eligible for the grants. The program has expanded to include 355 new zip codes. A few of these new cities and communities include Oxnard, North Hollywood, Beverly Hills, San Jacinto, Pacific Palisades, Montebello, Littlerock, Rosemead, Ventura, and West Whittier for Southern California. In Northern California, the new areas are Palo Alto, Union City, Newark, Los Altos, Ukiah, and Half Moon Bay.

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