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In the News

ICYMI: All of California’s House members team up to ask for fire relief funds

In The News
Dec 7, 2017
All of California’s House members team up to ask for fire relief funds

California House members came together in a rare bipartisan effort Friday that they hope will result in federal disaster relief aid for victims of the Wine Country fires.
 
Every member of California’s House delegation — all 53 Republicans and Democrats — signed a letter asking the leaders of the House Appropriations Committee to include the state’s request for $4.4 billion in wildfire relief funds in emergency disaster legislation.
 
“This is one of the few issues that they have agreed on — in the past year, at least,” said T.J. Adams-Falconer, a spokesman for Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, whose office pulled together the group over the past day. “We thought it was important to have the delegation all on board to show our solidarity.”
 
The bipartisan pitch comes after the Trump administration omitted money last month for Northern California fire victims from its request to Congress for $44 billion in disaster aid. A Nov. 17 letter from Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney addressed disaster relief funding needs after hurricanes struck Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, but mentioned only special tax relief for California fire victims.

Even though White House spokeswoman Helen Ferre later told The Chronicle that “the Trump administration is fully committed to assisting the victims of the California wildfires in their hour of need,” Adams-Falconer said the omission “caught us off guard.”
 
It was especially important that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, signed Friday’s letter, given his leadership position in the GOP-controlled House and his closeness to President Trump. McCarthy personally toured Wine Country fire areas and saw “firsthand the extent of the damage this fire did,” Adams-Falconer said.
 
Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, whose district extends from the Golden Gate to the Oregon border, welcomed the bipartisan effort.
 
“In the wake of the worst wildfire disaster we have ever seen, our communities need this federal support to rebuild,” Huffman said. “I’m glad to see the entire California delegation in Congress uniting today to call on the Appropriations Committee to deliver this overdue disaster aid to Californians.”
 
Friday’s letter echoed a $4.4 billion request in disaster relief that Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Office of Emergency Services, sent Thursday to the Appropriations Committee. He asked for help recovering from what he called “the most dangerous and destructive (wildfire) in the state’s history.” He said the 21 separate fires claimed 44 lives, destroyed 8,800 structures, consumed 245,000 acres and caused damage in eight counties and three tribal nations.
 
On Friday, Ghilarducci’s office was gratified to see bipartisan congressional support.
 
“We look at every disaster in California in a bipartisan way, because the impacts and long-lasting recovery challenges know no party lines,” Kelly Huston, deputy director of the Office of Emergency Services, said Friday. “We’re deeply appreciative of all the support and assistance we’ve received from legislators on many sides. At the end of the day, our goal is to help everyone recover from these devastating wildfires.”

 

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All of California’s House members team up to ask for fire relief funds San Francisco Chronicle | December 1, 2017