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President Threatens to Block FEMA Funds to Fire Victims

Thursday, January 10, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Sharon Leach
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President threatens to block FEMA funds for California fire recovery

 

"Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forrest fires that, with proper Forrest Management, would never happen," Trump tweeted, later editing the post to correct the misspelling of "forest."

"Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!" Trump said.

His morning tweet was followed by objections from state's forestry associations.

"How do you describe an individual that would harm people so that he could have his way," said Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.). "The reality is that these funds are necessary for the rebuilding and sustenance of the victims of the fires."

Trump didn't specify which money he wants withheld from FEMA. No order was listed on the White House website. FEMA has continued to pay for disaster recovery despite the government shutdown, agency spokesman Michael Hart said.

Trump's tweet came a day after Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom wrote to the president, asking for more funding to help the state maintain forests on federal land by doubling the federal investment there. Newsom, on his first day on the job, announced his first budget will call for $1 billion for five years for forest management, which includes thinning and prescribed burning.

The governor also signed a pair of executive orders on fires. The first would require state firefighters to craft risk management plans to better cover people who are poor or elderly or have limited mobility. The second seeks to make it easier for the government to contract private-sector technology, and the first project aims to detect fires better.

 

Doug LaMalfa, who represents Paradise and other areas damaged by the Camp Fire in November, tweeted that FEMA had extended its deadline to register for disaster assistance. His statement came between Trump's first tweet and his second, spell-checked one. And it came a day after the Camp Fire was declared the world's single costliest disaster of 2018. Losses topped $16.5 billion, of which about $4 billion was uninsured.

Many forest groups and lawmakers agree that a more intensive approach makes sense in forests, as climate change, disease and insect infestations make forests more fire-prone. Years of fire suppression also stopped fires in areas where wildfire is a normal part of nature's cycle.

Rich Gordon, president of the California Forestry Association said that about 60 percent of forested land in the state is federally owned, and the state has taken on more management there as federal funding has declined, he said. "I think California is trying to step up."

As to withholding FEMA funds, Gordon said, "I'm not even sure what is the appropriate adjective."