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Hurricane Disaster Bill in Senate Includes Stop to Fire-Borrowing

Friday, September 8, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Sharon Leach
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Disaster Bill also Funds Wildfire Fighting Retroactively for 2017

According to news reports, an agreement passed in the Senate yesterday regarding disaster relief could stop fire-borrowing.

The costs for fire-fighting this year already are above $300 million. The Senate added a provision to a disaster spending bill that will allow the Forest Service and Interior Department to cover the costs of wildfires in 2017.

This agreement would prevent the fire-borrowing that goes on with the Forest Service budget every year, where funds for other forest management are diverted to fighting fires. Any amounts that were transferred from other budget areas to fight fires this year will be restored by the bill.  While only a temporary solution, the bill helps resolve the issue for this year. Congress continues working on a more permanent fix to fire-borrowing.

"When Oregon's skies are glowing orange at night from wildfires and families are forced to evacuate their homes, our state and the West need money to fight these fires now," Wyden said.

The $15.25 billion measure is aimed to provide support to areas hit by Hurricane Harvey, and early assistance to those facing Hurricane Irma, which is anticipated to make landfall in Florida soon. Also this plan provides a short-term debt limit increase to keep the government funded through the rest of 2017. It is scheduled to be voted on today in the House.

Wyden and Merkley plan to continue efforts on a fire budgeting solution, which has been stalled by debates over management of national forests. To end fire-borrowing, the senators support an approach that funds wildfires the way other disasters are funded and provides faster approval for fuels reduction and thinking projects to deter future fires.