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Merkley, Wyden announce $422 million in federal funds to help wildfire-hit communities

Highway 22 in Santiam Canyon was among state's hardest-hit areas
ODOT file
Highway 22 in Santiam Canyon was among state's hardest-hit areas

WASHINGTON (KTVZ) — Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden announced Wednesday that the state of Oregon will receive $422 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in an effort to help communities recover from the extreme damages caused by the 2020 wildfires.

“Oregon cannot fully recover from the 2020 Labor Day wildfires without addressing underserved communities who have had difficulty rebuilding from natural disasters—especially after these fires flattened entire neighborhoods and towns,” Merkley said. “This substantial funding will help every community—regardless of race, income, or zip code—take critical steps to rebuild their homes, their communities, and their lives after experiencing such devastating loss.”  

“The 2020 Labor Day wildfires cut a destructive path statewide, and the path back to a full recovery for Oregonians working to rebuild their lives from this disaster requires significant federal resources,” Wyden said. “I’m gratified this federal grant is heading to Oregon to support communities working to rebound from these blazes by responding to the tremendous need for assistance in every nook and cranny of our state.”

“Thanks to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, this allocation will go a long way to help those Oregonians who are still experiencing housing instability as a result of the 2020 wildfires,” said Margaret Salazar, executive director of Oregon Housing and Community Services. “We are grateful to our congressional delegation for elevating the needs of Oregonians and helping to secure the funding. Although the funds are not immediately available, we will begin working on an action plan to determine how the funds will be used once they are.”

The $422 million comes from a larger $2 billion Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery (CBDG-DR) that HUD is allocating through the Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance Act, which was signed into law on September 30.

After hearing directly from state officials, local elected officials and wildfire-impacted communities about the urgent need for CBDG-DR funding in particular, Merkley used his position as Chair of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds the Department of Interior to secure $5 billion for CBDG-DR — a program critical to covering ongoing recovery expenses from the devastating 2020 wildfire season.

The CBDG-DR allocation will be Oregon’s first-ever, following a push by Merkley and Wyden to include wildfire recovery in the disaster relief funding that has traditionally covered natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods.

KTVZ news sources

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