U.S. Senators from Oregon Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, alongside Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR-04), announced Wednesday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is making a number of changes to reduce barriers for underserved populations seeking access to federal assistance following future natural disasters, including wildfires.
The announcement comes a year after the 2020 Labor Day fires – and their dangerous smoke plumes – devastated families, businesses and communities across Oregon, and after Merkley drove Wyden and DeFazio to lobby FEMA to overcome obstacles that have made it more difficult for some natural disaster survivors to access agency resources.
âLast year’s Labor Day fires were an apocalyptic tragedy. The fires have killed people, destroyed businesses, forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate, and destroyed or damaged more than 5,000 buildings across Oregon, including thousands of homes owned by low-income families, âhe said. said Merkley. âThe last thing everyone should have to worry about after going through this kind of traumatic event is jumping hoop after hoop of bureaucratic nonsense, or not being able to make the crucial repairs they need to stay in. safety when they return home. I am relieved that FEMA is heeding our call to make it easier for survivors of future disasters to get the help they need to get back on their feet as quickly as possible, and I will continue to work with the agency to ensure that these reforms are implemented meaningfully. These and other changes are necessary to ensure that all Oregon residents receive the resources they need to deal with climate change. “
âWhen wildfires or other disaster strike a community in our state, every Oregonian trying to get their life back deserves equal and prompt access to FEMA resources,â said Wyden. âI am delighted that FEMA has responded to our call to cut unnecessary red tape that slowed the flow of aid after the Labor Day fires of 2020. I will continue to monitor these reforms to ensure that ‘They are being implemented so that all survivors of wildfires and other natural disasters in Oregon can count on the assistance necessary for a full recovery.
“I am pleased that FEMA has heard our calls and is taking action to accelerate the delivery of federal aid to future disaster survivors,” DeFazio said. âThat said, this help is still desperately needed for Oregonians affected by the 2020 wildfire season, especially low-income communities. As chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which has jurisdiction over FEMA, I will continue to fight to ensure that affected Oregon residents receive the federal help they need to recover.
Specifically, FEMA is set to expand the types of documents it accepts to prove resident ownership or occupancy for landlords and tenants; extend financial assistance to people with disabilities caused by disasters and require that components, such as ramps and grab bars, be installed in the homes of survivors when needed; and providing expanded housing assistance – including resources to cover property damage caused by a disaster – and other needs assistance funds, including funds to repair homes affected by mold growth caused by a disaster.