Wildfire-relief funds part of proposed $81B disaster-aid package

Congress is set to debate and vote on the plan this week

Dec.December 19, 2017 09:40 AM
Smoldering trees at the Thomas Fire (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Congress plans to debate and vote this week on a sweeping $81 billion disaster-relief bill that includes funds for California’s wildfire-recovery efforts.

The exact dollar figure that would go to help southern California recover from one of the worst wildfire seasons in history isn’t clear, as the bill is also set to include money for hurricane-relief efforts in the Gulf Coast, Puerto Rico and elsewhere, according to the Los Angeles Times. While lawmakers did not provide a detailed breakdown of the spending, the bill would bring the total amount of federal dollars spent on disaster recovery this year to $130 billion if approved.

Details are scarce, but Bloomberg reported that $28.6 billion set to go to the Department of Homeland Security would “reimburse 90 percent of state wildfire costs,” while another chunk would go to programs that could use the money to build and repair highways and other public infrastructure. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would get $26.7 billion, the Times reported.

Following criticism from Democratic leaders and representatives in disaster-affected regions, Republican leaders in Washington nearly doubled the total from the $44 billion President Donald Trump requested last month for relief efforts around the country.

The largest of the most recent blazes, the Thomas Fire threatens $1.6 billion worth of residential real estate on its own. Altogether, the handful of fires around Southern California threaten $2.8 billion.

The Skirball fire in Los Angeles destroyed several homes in Bel Air, including that of former NBA player Andrei Kirilenko, while scorching media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s $30 million vineyard. [LAT] — Dennis Lynch

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