August 09, 2017

Oregon Delegation Announces Partial Federal Disaster Relief for Severe Winter Storms

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s entire congressional delegation today announced the White House will grant a partial federal disaster declaration for a few days of a winter weather-related losses across the state this January.

The decision is a reversal of an earlier denial of federal disaster relief for the state. The disaster declaration will allow local governments to seek much-needed federal relief for damage caused by winter storms from Jan. 7-10.

But that is likely to fall far short of the more than $17 million in damages from flooding, mudslides and structures that collapsed during winter storms from Jan. 7-20.

The seven lawmakers wrote to the White House in March in support of Gov. Kate Brown’s request for a statewide disaster declaration for significant weather-related costs from Jan. 7-20, as well as more targeted help in the form of public assistance grants for Baker, Columbia, Curry, Deschutes, Hood River, Josephine, Malheur, Multnomah, Union and Washington counties.

Under the new decision, the entire state will be eligible for some level of federal relief for the period from Jan. 7-10. Columbia, Deschutes, Hood River and Josephine counties will be eligible for public assistance grants, and the rest of the state will be eligible for hazard mitigation grants. Approval of public assistance grants for Malheur, Multnomah, Union, and Washington counties are still pending, and will be determined at a later date.

“This partial disaster declaration is a good first step toward providing desperately needed relief from the costly damage caused by the massive winter event that hit our state in January,” the delegation said in a joint statement. “As lawmakers, we understand the Oregon communities affected by these prolonged and historic winter storms still need more resources and we will keep working to direct federal aid to help in their recovery.”

After the initial denial of the state’s request for a federal disaster declaration in March, the lawmakers wrote to the administration in support of the state’s appeal.

Additionally, in a May letter, Wyden, Merkley and Walden pushed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for more transparency in the agency’s process for granting federal disaster declarations.