Bonamici, Oregon Members Call for Immediate Housing Aid for Evacuees Displaced by Oregon Wildfires

Bonamici, Oregon Members Call for Immediate Housing Aid for Evacuees Displaced by Oregon Wildfires

Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and Representatives Peter DeFazio, Greg Walden, Earl Blumenauer, and Kurt Schrader called on FEMA to provide additional, immediate housing aid to protect the health and safety of the thousands of people displaced by the Oregon wildfires, and to secure housing stability for the lowest-income survivors. 

“Tens of thousands of Oregonians have been placed under evacuation orders, and hundreds have already lost their homes,” the Members write in the letter. “Unfortunately, these figures continue to grow by the hour and day. As first responders fight to contain fires and we begin to assess how the fires have wreaked havoc on our communities, we need additional federal resources—particularly for those in need of immediate and longer-term shelter.”

Bonamici and the Members request that FEMA immediately make available the greatest possible range of assistance programs as requested by the Governor, including Individual Assistance (IA), Public Assistance (PA), Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA), and any other available short- and long-term housing resources. They also ask that FEMA waive current state cost-share requirements so evacuees and survivors can be housed without delay in stable, affordable accommodations as they strive to recover.

The full letter can be read here and below.

Oregon’s housing and homelessness crisis existed prior to the pandemic and the wildfires. Both disasters have put thousands more people on the street and left many others at risk of losing their home. According to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, before the wildfires Oregon already lacked 96,643 affordable rental homes for extremely low-income renters. 

The 2020 Oregon wildfires have already destroyed hundreds of housing units and caused about 40,000 people to evacuate. About 500 Oregonians are staying in congregant shelters, and the Red Cross has helped another 2,300 find shelter in motels or hotels. As the wildfires rage across more than one million acres, there is an urgent need for additional housing solutions to protect the health and safety of evacuees and survivors now and in the long-term.

Dear Administrator Gaynor,

As you are aware, Oregon has declared a State of Emergency because of the recent wildfires, and the President has approved the state’s Emergency Disaster Declaration request. A Major Disaster Declaration request is also currently under consideration. We are writing with a specific request that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) take additional action to protect the health and safety of people experiencing displacement and houselessness, and to secure housing stability for the lowest-income survivors displaced by the wildfires in Oregon.

Wildfires continue to surge across Oregon at unprecedented rates. Because of historic winds and dry fuel conditions, nearly one million acres have already burned just in the past few days. For comparison, for the last ten years an average of approximately 500,000 acres have burned each year during an entire fire season in our state. Air quality has surpassed hazardous levels, further endangering the health and livelihoods of those already at risk of respiratory issues from the coronavirus pandemic.

Tens of thousands of Oregonians have been placed under evacuation orders, and hundreds have already lost their homes. Unfortunately, these figures continue to grow by the hour and day. We are grateful to the state and federal personnel who have made lifesaving measures a priority this week, but the road to recovery will be long and challenging. As first responders fight to contain fires and we begin to assess how the fires have wreaked havoc on our communities, we need additional federal resources—particularly for those in need of immediate and longer-term shelter.

We urgently ask that FEMA immediately make available the greatest possible range of assistance programs as requested by the Governor, potentially including Individual Assistance (IA), Public Assistance (PA), Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA), and any other available short- and long-term housing resources. We also request that FEMA waive current state cost-share requirements to help quickly move unsheltered individuals to safety and make sure that survivors have stable, affordable accommodations as they strive to recover.

Thank you for your immediate attention to this urgent request and for your continued commitment to responding to the desperate needs of Oregonians affected by these catastrophic wildfires.

Sincerely,

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