WASHINGTON—Rep. Peter DeFazio, Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, today led Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Reps. Earl Blumenauer, Greg Walden, Kurt Schrader and Suzanne Bonamici in urging the Federal Emergency Management Agency to increase the Federal cost share for debris removal costs related to the recent wildfires in Oregon to 100 percent.
Typically, state, local, tribal, and territorial governments pick up 25 percent of the costs of FEMA assistance. However, given the scope and severity of the damage caused by September’s wildfires—combined with the financial stress state and local governments are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic—the lawmakers are urging FEMA to cover all the costs associated with debris removal for the disaster. FEMA has previously authorized limited 100 percent Federal share adjustments in 22 disasters under the Trump Administration.
In the letter to FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor, the lawmakers write,
“We ask you to take into account the size and scale of this disaster as well as the backdrop upon which this disaster fell. In the span of a few short days, fires burned an area the size of the State of Rhode Island. As a result, thousands of our fellow Oregonians have been displaced, and countless businesses have been lost. Furthermore, the State and local governments continue to respond to and recover from four additional Presidentially-declared disasters since May 2019, including three counties which are covered under both Major Disaster Declarations from floods and the wildfire disaster last month…Oregon and her citizens are suffering under the strain of enormous calamity.”
Last week, Rep. DeFazio introduced the FEMA Assistance Relief Act, which would adjust the federal cost share of certain disaster assistance provided by FEMA under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act) to not less than 90 percent Federal for disasters declared in calendar year 2020 and to 100 percent for all COVID-19 related Emergency and Major Disaster declarations. Senator Merkley has introduced companion legislation in the Senate. The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, chaired by Rep. DeFazio, considered the bill this week and similar language was also included in the recent COVID relief package introduced this week.
For a PDF version of the letter, click here.