Wyden, Merkley Call for Wildfire Relief Funds to be Included in Next COVID-19 Relief Package

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and colleagues today sent a letter to House and Senate leadership requesting that funds for wildfire risk mitigation and recovery efforts be included in the next COVID-19 relief package. 

“Entire communities in Oregon and across the West were leveled to ash in the wake of this year’s wildfire season–lives lost and homes and small businesses destroyed, and all on top of a life-threatening global pandemic,” Wyden said. “With the blow 2020 delivered to these communities, Congress has a responsibility to provide for their recovery and invest in preventing future devastation.”

“In September, I drove over 600 miles across our state to meet with Oregonians who suffered tremendous loss, and to get an up close look at the damage from this year’s unprecedented wildfires,” said Merkley. “What I saw and heard was heartbreaking—reports of lives lost, homes destroyed, and entire towns leveled. As we continue down the long road to recovery, I’m going to keep doing everything I can to help our communities get back on their feet, and to reduce the risk of this type of massive destruction from ever happening again.”

Specifically, the letter calls for: 

  • Local economic relief to assist cash-strapped cities and towns originally excluded from the CARES Act in order to ensure firefighters and first responders can remain on payroll and have access to needed staff and resources; 
  • Investments in fire risk mitigation, such as establishing a 21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps to restore forest health and making investments in vital Forest Service programs that assist with forest management, such as the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program; 
  • Federal support for fire response efforts, including investments in FEMA’s Staffing For Adequate Fire And Emergency Response (SAFER) Grants, increased funds for late-season interagency hotshot crews, and increased pay and benefits for federal wildfire personnel; and 
  • Investments in fire recovery efforts to support the work being done by local, state, and federal officials to revitalize the environmental health, water quality, and economy of communities impacted by wildfires. 

Read the letter here.

The letter led by Wyden and U.S. Congressman Joe Neguse (D-CO) was signed by U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., Tom Udall, D-N.M., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Patty Murray, D-Wash., Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., Salud Carbajal, D-Calif. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., Jared Huffman, D-Calif., Ro Khanna, D-Calif., Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., Barbara Lee, D-Calif., Jerry McNerney, D-Calif., Grace Napolitano, D-Calif., Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz., Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., Katie Porter, D-Calif., Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., Brad Sherman, D-Calif., and Mike Thompson, D-Calif.