Tipton bill would help those harmed by wildfires
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., has introduced a bill seeking to ensure that communities and businesses impacted by wildfires on public lands receive necessary disaster-related economic assistance.
Tipton's office said in a news release that H.R. 6799, the Federal Lands Fire-Related Incidents Recovery and Economic Stimulus (Federal Lands FIRES) Act, "would create a new disaster designation for wildfires, of which 40 percent or more burned on federal lands, ensuring that the surrounding communities qualify for federal economic disaster relief."
The assistance would be available for direct impacts from the fire and nondirect damages up to 100 miles from burn areas.
Currently, his office said, fires burning primarily on federal lands don't qualify for disaster declarations under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance (Stafford) Act. That means that communities and businesses operating on federal land and in surrounding areas aren't eligible for federal disaster-related economic assistance, including through the Small Business Administration's Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program and the Community Development Block Grants – Disaster Relief program.
Tipton cited this year's 416 Fire, which burned more than 50,000 acres in southwest Colorado, as a case in which surrounding communities weren't able to qualify for federal disaster assistance despite experiencing secondary impacts. That fire resulted in mudslides impacting private businesses.
The bill also would assist businesses operating on federal land, such as camps, resorts and recreational businesses.
Tipton's measure would automatically trigger eligibility for disaster assistance loans from the SBA for small businesses within disaster areas designated under the bill's provisions. Business assistance under the bill would be limited to companies with revenues of less than $3 million per year.