Tipton Introduces Legislation to Ensure that Communities Impacted by Wildfires on Federal Lands Receive Disaster Assistance
WASHINGTON D.C. – Congressman Scott Tipton (CO-03) has introduced legislation to ensure that communities and businesses impacted by wildfires that burn on federal lands receive necessary disaster assistance. 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% or more burned on federal lands, ensuring that the surrounding communities qualify for federal economic disaster relief.
“Under current law, when a fire burns on federal land, the surrounding communities that experience secondary impacts from the fire often do not qualify for federal disaster assistance. This happened with the recent 416 Fire which burned on federal land, and resulting mudslides impacted private businesses,” said Tipton. “By creating a new disaster designation for fires that burn on federal lands, this bill will guarantee that communities in Colorado and throughout the West will be eligible for federal support to aid with damages following severe wildfires on federal public lands.”
Currently, fires that burn primarily on federal lands do not qualify for disaster declarations under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance (Stafford) Act. As a result, the communities and businesses that operate on federal land and in the surrounding area do not meet the requirements for disaster-related economic assistance from the federal government, including access to the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program and Community Development Block Grants – Disaster Relief (CDBG-DR) programs.
H.R. 6799 would ensure that the communities and businesses affected by fires on federal lands would not be forced to go without federal support when recovering from a natural disaster. The bill includes provisions that would:
- Establish a new Presidential disaster designation, available to states and tribes, for wildfires of which 40% or more burned on federal lands;
- Extend the designation to cover the burn area as well as areas of secondary and tertiary damages, up to 100 miles from the burn area, allowing federal economic assistance from the SBA and CBDG-DR programs to support businesses impacted by mudslides, rockslides, falling trees, and other events causing damage that aren’t direct impacts of the fire;
- Automatically trigger eligibility for disaster assistance loans from SBA for small businesses that are within the designated area;
- Authorize Congress to appropriate money to the designated area;
- Institute careful controls and oversight from the Department of Housing and Urban Development on dollars appropriated by CDBG-DR.
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