Oregon’s federal & state leaders react to historic $422m in federal wildfire aid

MEDFORD, Ore. – Oregon is receiving more financial help from the federal government. NBC5 News first reported Monday that $422 million were coming to the state through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, also known as HUD. That money will go towards rebuilding communities after last year’s horrific fire season.

This money will bring hope back into our community, as we continue to rebuild following last year’s fires. The funding from HUD will give the state more than $422 million dollars toward recovery efforts. While the specifics aren’t laid out yet leaders tell me the money will help immensely.

The news first got out Saturday at the ribbon-cutting for the Talent-Gateway Project. Leaders from the local level all the way to the federal government are excited about the announcement.

“This is an incredibly unusually large grant to receive and will help a ton of those families who lost everything,” said U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley.

In order to even qualify for this type of grant, the state needed help from congress. U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden worked with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to get the assistance.

“Wyden and I promised that we would not forget you and we would fight for you. And this is apart from pushing FEMA to every moment, this is the biggest way we’ve been able to fulfill that promise,” said Sen. Merkley.

What will the state do with 422 million dollars for recovery efforts? HUD told NBC5 News it’s up to the community.

“It’s driven my choices that the residents and citizens of Oregon make. They’ll present that information to HUD in a plan that not only describes their unmet needs but which specific program and activities they’ll use the funding for,” said Tennille Parker, Director of Disaster Recovery and Special Issues Division.

The grant will go to Oregon Housing and Services who previously budgeted local and state money for wildfire aid. But before Oregon gets the money, local leaders need to create a plan on how best to spend the new resources.

Ashland State Representative Pam Marsh has been vocal through the rebuilding process. She told NBC5 News she’s already brainstorming ideas.

“With this money, we can really think creatively about the way we approach building housing density and housing stock within the community,” said Rep. Marsh, “The goal is for us to be a model for getting housing units fast and as inexpensively as possible”.

While our community is still in the early stages of planning around the grant, leaders hope it will bring residents back home.

Oregon Housing and Community Services sent NBC5 News a statement:

Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) appreciates the strong leadership from our congressional delegation to help ensure the needs of Oregonians are elevated with the allocation of this federal grant. We know that the unmet need [for] housing is overwhelming. The mission of our agency is to provide affordable, safe, and resilient housing. This is just the beginning of a months-long and complex process to get federal funds to help Oregon wildfire survivors. The state must still complete many tasks required by the federal government before it receives the money. One of these tasks will be to develop an action plan that identifies how the state will use the funds and address unmet disaster recovery and mitigation needs. The public will be invited to review the plan and submit feedback throughout the process.

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