News Releases

Murray’s legislation is a direct response to problems that occurred during back-to-back wildfire seasons in Washington state 

The Rural Disaster Recovery Act of 2016 fills a need when FEMA assistance is not awarded 

Murray: “We should not wait for the next wildfire season to act

(Washington, D.C.) — Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), introduced The Rural Disaster Recovery Act of 2016, new legislation to help communities recover from devastating wildfires and other natural disasters. The legislation comes as a direct response to problems that arose during back-to-back summers of devastating wildfires in Washington state in 2014 and 2015, including a lack of housing in rural communities where housing was already scarce. In 2015 alone, wildfires burned more than one million acres and destroyed more than145 homes in Washington state.  

“After two consecutive seasons of devastating wildfires in Washington state, I heard directly from community leaders about existing policies that failed to help communities recover and get families get back on their feet in their time of need. We must do better, and we should not wait for the next wildfire season to act,” Senator Murray said.  “The legislation I have introduced, shaped by countless conversations with people around Washington state, will take a strong step toward getting communities the support and the resources they need.”

“We appreciate Senator Murray working with our recovery organization to introduce this common sense piece of legislation,” said Jon Wyss, Chairman of the Carlton Complex and Okanogan Complex Fire Recovery.The Rural Disaster Recovery Act fixes critical issues our family farmers and ranchers faced after losing thousands of miles of range land fencing during the fires.  The legislation also assists those who, during recovery efforts, are in the most need of critical housing.  We lost over 500 homes from the 2014 and 2015 fires in an area with less than a one percent vacancy rate.  This legislation protects those individuals and puts them in a position to recover quickly, especially when FEMA assistance has been denied.  We encourage the U.S. Senate and Congress to act quickly to pass The Rural Disaster Recovery Act. I am proud to have worked with Senator Murray to craft this legislation.”

"Senator Murray and her staff have gone above and beyond to listen to the collective voices of Eastern Washington residents, businesses, agencies, organizations and municipalities that were impacted by the devastating firestorms of 2014 and 2015,” said Carlene Anders, Mayor of Pateros, Washington, and the Executive Director of the Okanogan County Long Term Recovery Group. “This bill addresses many of the concerns we have expressed over the past two years and will make a big difference in how both individuals and communities recovery from these disasters.”

“Disasters like the Carlton and Okanogan Complex Wildfires left our  families without homes, without resources, and without hope, when individual assistance was denied,” said Lael Duncan, Executive Director of the Okanogan County Community Action Council. “When recovery is delayed,  we see families  at risk and the rural economy devastated.  Thanks to Senator Murray’s legislation, The Rural Disaster Recovery Act, families  in communities across the nation will be supported when disaster strikes. We know we can improve the process for recovery response time. Empowering local community based organizations with funding, will assure that  recovery can begin quickly, and losses overall can be reduced.  Senator Murray’s legislation brings equity to very rural families across the nation who until now have faced the trauma of disaster alone.”

Among other things, The Rural Disaster Recovery Act of 2016 would:

  • Create a new program to help provide housing and other recovery services to disaster-affected communities when FEMA's Individual Assistance program is not available
  • Encourage states to create assistance programs to help individuals and families recovering from disasters by increasing the federal reimbursement rate for certain recovery expenses
  • Ensure that Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds are available for communities impacted by wildfires
  • Modernize and expand key Farm Service Agency farm and ranch recovery programs

Find more information on the legislation here.

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