By Miriam Raftery
Photo: Smouldering remains of a mobile home park burned in the Tubbs Fire in October 2017; CC by ATS
December 2, 2017 (Washington D.C.) – Yesterday, 53 members of Congress including all five San Diego-area representatives signed a letter sent to House Appropriations Committee leaders urging that $4.4 billion to aid California wildfire survivors be added to a disaster relief fund.
The action comes after President Donald Trump previously ignored pleas from California legislators and Governor Jerry Brown, sending a measure to Congress that included funds for hurricane survivors in Texas and Florida, but not a penny to help those who lost homes, businesses or family members in the October California firestorms.
Congressman Duncan Hunter’s office forwarded the letter to ECM, which was signed by a bipartisan group of legislators including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Democratic Leader nancy Pelosi, San Diego representatives Susan Davis, Duncan Hunter, Darrell Issa, Scott Peters and Juan Vargas, and dozens of other members. It was addressed to Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen and Ranking Member Nita Lowey on the Appropriations Committtee.
The October firestorms were the worst in California history, burning over 240,000 acres, destroying 8,800 structures and claiming 44 lives, with this week’s most recent death of a burn victim. The fires began October 8th and the President approved a major disaster declaration October 10th. However, While Congress has approved support for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for California previously, the money allocated was primarily for fighting the fires – not the massive job of helping people rebuild after the fires that ravaged urban as well as rural areas.
Critics have contended that the President played politics by proposed funds to help only disaster victims in Republican states rebuild, while rebuffing requests from California, which voted Democratic in the 2016 presidential election.
But California’s legislative delegation is standing together in calling on Congress to approve disaster funds allocated fairly, without regard for partisan politics. Whether their colleagues in other states will stand with them remains to be seen.
Yesterday’s letter concludes, “A swift Federal response is vital, and we appreciate your dedication to helping our communities recover and rebuild.”