Washington – Senator Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today asked federal officials to begin the process that makes disaster aid available to farmers and businesses in Malheur County as well as other Eastern Oregon counties hard hit by severe winter weather since December.
“This relief is desperately needed by these communities, to rebuild and get back to a normal routine,” the senators wrote Michael Young, Acting Secretary of the federal Agriculture Department.
In their letter (attached) seeking a disaster designation for the affected counties, Wyden and Merkley noted that Eastern Oregon communities have already suffered significant losses, including the collapse of roofs on onion packing facilities, hay barns and small businesses due to heavy snowfalls.
“We understand the full tally of these losses cannot yet be compiled since many roads, including Interstate 84, have been intermittently closed and local citizens are still digging out to care for their animals, stabilize their operations and determine the damage,” Wyden and Merkley wrote. “Further, there is serious concern about flooding risks as the frozen rivers thaw, as well as livestock and calving losses connected to the extreme and prolonged cold weather.”
A federal disaster declaration sets in motion the ability for farmers and local businesses to be eligible for loans, insurance relief, and other assistance.