August 28, 2018

Wyden Introduces Clean Air Refugee Assistance Act

Legislation would allow those seeking temporary shelter from wildfire smoke to apply for federal aid

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden today introduced legislation that would help people forced to seek shelter from wildfire smoke when it reaches unhealthy levels in communities throughout Oregon and the West.

Wyden’s Clean Air Refugee Assistance Act of 2018 would allow those seeking temporary shelter from wildfire smoke to apply for relief under a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) program that covers temporary lodging for people who can’t immediately return home after a disaster.

“Oregonians breathing unhealthy air clogged by wildfire smoke for weeks on end know these blazes are disasters when they’re driven from their homes to seek pockets of clean air,” Wyden said. “Whether it’s children suffering from asthma or seniors needing respirators to breathe, all clean air refugees deserve the same consideration as other disaster victims forced to seek temporary shelter.”

Wyden’s bill would let clean air refugees seek temporary lodging aid from FEMA if they live in an area where the air quality index is determined to be unhealthy for at least three consecutive days as the result of a wildfire declared to be a major disaster by the President or Governor of the affected state.

The Clean Air Refugee Assistance Act is part of Wyden’s comprehensive approach to dealing with wildfires devastating Oregon and the West.

Other examples of his work this year include eliminating federal agencies’ flawed practice of borrowing from wildfire prevention funds; successfully urging the Forest Service to develop a plan addressing the hazardous fuels backlog in the woods;  securing $7 million to train National Guard members to fight wildfires; pressing the Forest Service to ensure enough air tankers are available to fight wildfires; and seeking disaster relief for Oregon farmers whose crops were destroyed by wildfires.

A full version of the Clean Air Refugee Assistance Act is here.

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