Following Extremely Destructive 2020 Wildfire Season: Merkley, Wyden Push Biden Administration for Disaster Supplemental Funding to Help Communities Rebuild

Following Extremely Destructive 2020 Wildfire Season: Merkley, Wyden Push Biden Administration for Disaster Supplemental Funding to Help Communities Rebuild

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today pressed President Biden to provide additional relief to states struggling with the impact of extreme drought and wildfires.

According to the Drought Monitor, over half of the United States is currently experiencing a historic drought. Over 95 percent of the West is now either abnormally dry or in a drought—making current conditions among the most dry within the past two decades.

“When Oregon went up in flames last September, I drove over six hundred miles across the state to meet affected families and tour damage. It is difficult to put into words the heartbreak you feel when you see streets leveled and empty lots of rubble where homes stood just days before,” said Merkley. “It’s impossible to thrive without a safe roof over your head, making it absolutely crucial that families whose homes went up in flames receive the resources they need to rebuild. I’m going to keep pushing for housing resources—both emergency and long-term—and other assistance to ensure that all Oregonians impacted by this year’s wildfire season receive the support they need to get back on their feet as quickly as possible.”

“What I heard last week from firefighting officials in Medford, Portland and Bend as well as from Oregonians still recovering from 2020’s blazes adds up to a chorus of concern unified by the urgent need for federal resources to combat wildfires in our state,” Wyden said. “Bottom line, the drought heading into this summer equates to serious wildfire threats to communities statewide. And I’m all in with Senator Merkley and colleagues across the West to press on every front to protect Oregonians’ lives, homes and businesses with whatever it takes to reduce the danger from these destructive wildfires.”

U.S. Senators representing wildfire-prone states across the West joined Merkley and Wyden in the letter: Alex Padilla (D-CA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV).

The Senators’ letter also emphasized that communities are still grappling with the effects of last year’s drought and wildfires, in part because they never received supplemental relief for these disasters. While the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has offered substantial support, the scale of natural disasters that occurred in 2020 necessitates a disaster supplemental.

Text of the letter is available here and follows below.

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Dear President Biden:

We write to urge to you to provide relief to states that are struggling with the impact of extreme drought and wildfire this summer and uncompensated damage from past wildfires, hurricanes, floods, and storms. We urge you to request additional funding to meet those needs.

According to the Drought Monitor, over half of the United States is experiencing a historic drought. Over 95% of the West is now either abnormally dry or in a drought, which is among the highest percentages in the past 20 years. In addition, over 800,000 acres of forests and rangelands have been burned by wildfire over the past year. The scale and nature of the problem is quickly outpacing the availability of funding and authorities of federal agencies.

In addition to the escalating impact of this year’s drought and wildfires, many states and communities never received supplemental relief for damage for disasters in 2020. While in most cases the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has delivered substantial emergency relief to affected communities, the scale of natural disasters experienced in 2020 demands additional resources that can only be delivered through a disaster supplemental.

We thank you for your consideration, and we look forward to working with you on this important issue.

Sincerely,