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Oregon Delegation Announces Major Step Up in Recovery Resources for Oregon Following 2020 Labor Day Fires

July 7, 2021
Press Release
Federal government will cover 100 percent of debris removal and emergency protective measures taken by state and local governments during the crisis

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, alongside Representatives Peter DeFazio (D-OR-04), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03), Kurt Schrader (D-OR-05) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-01), today announced that the federal government has agreed to pay 100 percent of the costs associated with debris removal and emergency protective measures following last year’s Labor Day fires.

The Oregon delegation pushed the White House four times to make this determination, citing estimates that the cost of debris removal alone would top $622 million and total disaster costs would exceed $1 billion.

“The wildfires that raged through Oregon last year caused great devastation, and many communities are still working hard to recover as this wildfire season begins,” Bonamici said.“I’m grateful that the federal government is heeding our calls to help Oregonians at a time of tremendous need. Together we can rebuild and help communities become safer and more resilient.”

“When last year’s Labor Day fires broke out, I drove over 600 miles across our state to meet affected families and to assess the damage. The destruction I saw was gut-wrenching. Oregonian lives were lost, homes and businesses were leveled, and entire communities were destroyed,” Merkley said. “We’ve made a lot of progress since these fires were put out—but those efforts were expensive and challenging. That’s why I’m glad the federal government has agreed to reimburse our state and local governments for the emergency costs they faced in the wake of the blazes, so they can continue on with the work of rebuilding and delivering critical services to Oregonians.”

“Oregon has made incredible progress recovering from the catastrophic Labor Day fires, but these efforts have been challenging and expensive,” Wyden said. “For months, the Oregon delegation has been pushing for federal reimbursement of recovery efforts around the state, so I’m glad to see FEMA certify full reimbursement for debris removal and emergency costs which will be critical as Oregonians work to rebuild our communities.”

“I’m relieved that the federal government has heeded our calls to reimburse state and local governments for costs associated with keeping our communities safe during last year’s devastating fires,” Blumenauer said. “Wildfire recovery is a years-long process and at a time when budgets are already stretched thin due to the pandemic, this is welcome news that will make a difference across Oregon. I hope we can persuade people that this recent heat disaster deserves the same consideration and hopefully more rapid action.”

“Last year’s Labor Day fires were devastating. Entire communities were destroyed, and lives were tragically lost. As Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), I led the Oregon delegation in requesting the Trump and Biden administrations to marshal increased federal resources to help Oregon communities recover from the disaster,” DeFazio said. “I’m pleased that the federal government has agreed to fully reimburse our state and local governments for the costliest month of emergency costs they faced due to the wildfires. This agreement will help us rebuild and keep our recovery on track.”

“The deadly Labor Day fires that devastated the state last year took an especially steep personal and economic toll on Oregon’s Fifth Congressional District, as whole towns, homes, businesses and livelihoods were destroyed,” Schrader said. “To properly address the lack of resources, devastation and heartache caused by the historic fires, the Oregon delegation pressed the federal government to cover the full emergency and cleanup costs our state and local governments incurred during a period following the historic fires, rather than just the standard 75 percent federal share of assistance. These reimbursements mean our communities are able to further recover, rebuild and take steps to prevent wildfire disasters in the future.”

FEMA will cover the costs of debris removal and emergency protective measures for a 30-day period identified by the state. Benton, Clackamas, Columbia, Coos, Deschutes, Douglas, Jackson, Jefferson, Josephine, Klamath, Lake, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Tillamook, Wasco, Washington, and Yamhill Counties will receive the reimbursement for emergency protective measures, including evacuations and establishing operation centers. Clackamas, Douglas, Jackson, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, and Tillamook Counties will receive funding for debris removal costs associated with the fires. Additionally, Clackamas, Douglas, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, and Tillamook Counties will also receive reimbursements for permanent preventive measures.

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