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Tuesday, January 26th, 2021

Oregon lawmakers seek financial help from FEMA in fighting wildfires

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Federal lawmakers from Oregon are requesting financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help offset the costs of fighting the wildfires.

Specifically, they are asking FEMA to assume 100 percent of the cost share for debris removal and emergency protective measures from the wildfires that ripped through the state this year.

“As you saw when you toured the state with us earlier this year, wildfires have utterly decimated communities across Oregon,” the Oregon lawmakers wrote to FEMA administrator Greg Gaynor. “Governor Kate Brown and Oregon Emergency Management predict that total disaster costs will ultimately total more than $1 billion—a burden the state will be unable to shoulder in light of ongoing pandemic-related responses.”

The letter was signed by U.S. Reps. Greg Walden (R-OR), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). The lawmakers point out that the damage assessment from the 2020 fire season in Oregon now exceeds FEMA’s regulatory threshold to support an increased federal cost share from 75 percent to 100 percent. They add that FEMA has regularly increased its cost share in past disasters.

“FEMA has authorized 90 percent cost share in more than 20 disasters since January 2017, including wildfires, and 100 percent cost share in 22 disasters during the same period,” the lawmakers wrote. “Indeed, the administration recently amended the Major Disaster Declaration for California to authorize 100% percent cost share for debris removal and emergency protective measures.”