December 08, 2020

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

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., today led their colleagues in sending 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.”

“A record 2020 wildfire season has forced thousands of evacuations, threatened air and water quality, and destroyed homes and businesses. Communities that have been fighting the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19 are now also beginning the long journey of recovering from catastrophic wildfire,” said Neguse. “Congress has the power to not only help these communities recover, but also to make major federal investments in sustainable forest management to ensure they are better prepared for the next season. After a devastating wildfire season in Colorado, it is critical that we ensure our firefighters and communities are protected from future tragedies of this magnitude, and fully equipped for the long road of recovery.”

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 Neguse 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.