President says disaster funds could help Oregon cities, counties recover from nasty winter
President Trump said Tuesday that the federal government would provide disaster assistance to the state to help cities and counties recover from severe winter storms, flooding, landslides and mudslides that hit during a cold, snowy weather Jan. 7 to Jan. 10.
Because of the Aug. 8 declaration, federal funds will be available to state, tribal, local governments and some private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by severe winter storms in Columbia, Deschutes, Hood River and Josephine counties.
Federal funds are also available on for statewide hazard mitigation measures statewide.
Oregon's congressional delegation praised the White House action, but said it probably would "fall far short" of the money needed by nine counties to recover from the storms.
The state's seven federal lawmakers wrote to the White House in March to support Gov. Kate Brown's request for a statewide disaster declaration, as well as more targeted help through grants for Baker, Columbia, Curry, Deschutes, Hood River, Josephine, Malheur, Multnomah, Union and Washington counties.
Under the new decision, the state will be eligible for some federal relief for the January storms. Columbia, Deschutes, Hood River and Josephine counties will be eligible for public assistance grants, and the rest of the state will be eligible for hazard mitigation grants.
Approval of grants for Malheur, Multnomah, Union and Washington counties is still pending.
"This partial disaster declaration is a good first step toward providing desperately needed relief from the costly damage caused by the massive winter event that hit our state in January," Oregon congressional delegation said in a joint statement issued Tuesday, Aug. 8. "As lawmakers, we understand the Oregon communities affected by these prolonged and historic winter storms still need more resources and we will keep working to direct federal aid to help in their recovery."
Brown appeals rejection
State officials asked in early March for the disaster declaration to help cities and counties recover from the nasty winter that dumped nearly 15 inches of snow on the Portland area and caused floods and landslides around the region. In mid-May, the Federal Emergency Management Agency declined the request, saying the damage "was not of such severity and magnitude to be beyond the capabilities of the state and affected local governments."
Gov. Kate Brown appealed the decision in June, seeking FEMA help for help in nine counties, including Multnomah.
Brown was "disappointed" that the disaster declaration did not cover the 12 counties hard hit by the storms.
"While it's disappointing Oregon did not get the full level of assistance we requested, I'll continue working with our federal partners to ensure the available aid supports state and local recovery efforts in areas of most need," she said in a statement released Wednesday, Aug. 9.
FEMA funds could be available to cover about 75 percent of the costs for debris removal and emergency protective measures taken to save lives and protect property and public health. FEMA also could provide about 75 percent of the eligible costs to repair or replace damaged public facilities.
Hazard mitigation projects also could be eligible for some FEMA funds.
FEMA officials will host briefings for agencies and others on how to apply for the funds.