Cantwell, Murray, Colleagues Call for Wildfire Relief Funds to be Included in Next COVID-19 Relief Package

Letter calls for investments in fire risk mitigation, federal support of fire response efforts, assistance for impacted communities to ensure firefighters and first responders remain on payroll

WASHINGTON DC – This week, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Patty Murray (D-WA) joined U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), U.S. Representative Joe Neguse (D, CO-02), and a bicameral group of lawmakers in sending a bicameral letter to House and Senate leadership requesting that funds for wildfire risk mitigation and recovery efforts be included in the next COVID-19 relief package.

“A record 2020 wildfire season forced thousands of evacuations, threatened air and water quality, and destroyed homes and businesses across the West,” the members wrote. “Communities that have been fighting the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19 are now also now beginning the long journey of recovering from catastrophic wildfire. Congress has the power to not only help these communities recover, but also to make federal investments in sustainable forest management to ensure they are better prepared for the next season. We urge you to consider the timely need for wildfire mitigation, suppression, and recovery in the next COVID-19 stimulus package.”

The 2020 wildfire season has been one of the worst in more than two decades. According to the most recent Incident Management Situation Report from the National Interagency Coordination Center, this year's wildfires have burned a total of 9,539,554 acres.

The members’ letter calls for:

  • Local economic relief to assist cash-strapped cities and towns originally excluded from the CARES Act in order to ensure firefighters and first responders can remain on payroll and have access to needed staff and resources;
  • Investments in fire risk mitigation, such as establishing a 21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps to restore forest health and making investments in vital Forest Service programs that assist with forest management, such as the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program;
  • Federal support for fire response efforts, including investments in FEMA’s Staffing For Adequate Fire And Emergency Response (SAFER) Grants, increased funds for late-season interagency hotshot crews, and increased pay and benefits for federal wildfire personnel; and
  • Investments in fire recovery efforts to support the work being done by local, state, and federal officials to revitalize the environmental health, water quality, and economy of communities impacted by wildfires.

Senators Cantwell and Murray have forcefully pushed for the State of Washington and communities across the West to receive assistance responding to and recovering from this year’s devastating fire season. Just this week, the senators were joined by the entire Washington state congressional delegation in a third letter urging President Trump and FEMA Administrator Gaynor to support Governor Inslee’s request for a statewide federal emergency disaster declaration in response to this year’s wildfires. Last month, Cantwell and Murray asked the National Guard for a report on its readiness to help states prepare for and fight wildfires. And in September, Cantwell and Murray urged President Trump to provide additional federal assistance to states, Tribes, and communities grappling with wildfires and their aftermath. The senators have been congressional leaders on wildfire management for years, and in September Senator Cantwell introduced legislation to support pre-fire season controlled burns.

In addition to Cantwell, Murray, Wyden, and Neguse, the letter was also signed by U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Tom Udall (D-NM), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D, OR-03), Suzanne Bonamici (D, OR-01), Salud Carbajal (D, CA-24), Suzan DelBene (D, WA-01), Raúl Grijalva (D, AZ-03), Jared Huffman (D, CA-02) Ro Khanna (D, CA-17), Ann Kirkpatrick (D, AZ-02), Barbara Lee (D, CA-13), Jerry McNerney (D, CA-09), Grace Napolitano (D, CA-32), Tom O’Halleran (D, AZ-01), Jimmy Panetta (D, CA-20), Katie Porter (D, CA-45), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D, CA-40), Brad Sherman (D, CA-30), and Mike Thompson (D, CA-05).

The full text of the letter is available HERE.