March 29, 2021

Congressman Neguse Requests Support for Community Wildfire Recovery in Upcoming Infrastructure Package

Neguse wrote Chairman DeFazio to request that his two bills to support Colorado communities be added to the upcoming legislation

Washington D.C. —Congressman Joe Neguse is asking that federal support for communities recovering from the 2020 wildfire season be included in the upcoming infrastructure package from Congress. He has sent a letter to Congressman Peter DeFazio, Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, specifically requesting that his Climate Resilient Communities Act and Wildfire Recovery Act be included in the upcoming package. Both bills would support Colorado’s communities as they recover from wildfires and other climate-related weather events through increased flexibility for Fire Management Assistance Grants (FMAG), and to study and improve building codes used by FEMA to ensure communities are able to build back better in the wake of damaging natural disasters. 

“As Congress works to craft comprehensive infrastructure legislation, it’s important that climate change and the needs of Western communities working to rebuild from wildfires, are considered,” said Congressman Joe Neguse. “Both of the bills we’ve proposed would increase flexibility for our local communities and ensure more robust support from the federal government in these recovery efforts. America needs infrastructure that is resilient to the growing impacts of climate change, and these proposals would help us accomplish this, by specifically responding to needs raised by our local communities who are seeing firsthand the challenges of recovering from floods and wildfires under existing criteria from federal agencies.” 

The Climate Resilient Communities Act, would commission a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study to report on the benefits to prioritizing resiliency at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This legislation would provide critical information about the building codes and standards currently utilized in FEMA’s federal programs, and recommendations for how to improve those building codes to take into account resiliency and prepare for future natural disasters and efforts to rebuild.                                                                                                                                                     

The Wildfire Recovery Act would allow for flexibility in the federal cost share for Fire Management Assistance Grants (FMAG) and would direct FEMA to issue guidance identifying damage thresholds where the federal cost share could be raised above the current 75 percent. This would provide important assistance to state and local governments who are working to recover from these disasters and deal with the associated costs, while also still combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Read the letter here and below. 

 

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March 25, 2021

The Honorable Peter DeFazio

Chairman
House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure 
2167 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman DeFazio:

I write to thank you for your commitment to rebuilding America’s infrastructure, and to request the inclusion of my Climate Resilient Communities Act (H.R. 1936) and Wildfire Recovery Act (H.R. 1066) in the upcoming infrastructure package.

As we work to continue to provide relief to American families and workers to recover from the Coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic, the next important step in this process is the Build Back Better infrastructure plan. Investments in infrastructure pose a unique and important opportunity to invest in and rebuild our economy, and I thank you for this important work.

Many of our communities are still struggling amid the pandemic, and additionally grappling with the devastating effects of climate change and horrible natural disasters. In 2020, the first and second largest wildfires in Colorado history burned in my district and destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres. While crafting this infrastructure package, we must ensure we prioritize action against climate change, as we know climate change will continue to increase the number and scope of natural disasters like the fires that took place across the West.

My bill, the Climate Resilient Communities Act, would commission a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study to report on the benefits to prioritizing resiliency at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This legislation would provide us with critical information about the building codes and standards currently utilized in FEMA’s federal programs, and recommendations for how to improve those building codes to take into account resiliency and prepare for future natural disasters and efforts to rebuild. I was glad to work with your committee to include this bill as an amendment to The Moving Forward Act last summer.

As a result of these devastating fires, particularly in addition to COVID-19, communities in my district have expressed concern about their ability to meet the state and local match requirements for the Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) program at FEMA. This program provides support for states and local governments to cover eligible firefighting costs related to wildfires, such as field camps, equipment and materials used, at a 75 percent federal, 25 percent state and local cost share. The Wildfire Recovery Act would allow for flexibility in that federal cost share and would direct FEMA to issue guidance identifying damage thresholds where the cost share could be raised above 75 percent. This would provide important assistance to state and local governments who are working to recover from these disasters and deal with the associated costs, while also still combatting the COVID-19 pandemic.

I thank you for your incredible leadership crafting The Moving Forward Act last year and working on the next infrastructure package this spring. I urge you to consider including both of these important pieces of legislation as a part of that package. Thank you for your consideration of these requests, and I look forward to continuing to work with you to rebuild America’s infrastructure. 

Sincerely,                                                        
Joe Neguse
Member of Congress