Members of Washington state’s congressional delegation are asking the U.S. government to reconsider a decision denying help for individuals affected by this year’s wildfires.
More than 300 homes have been destroyed in North Central Washington, and Gov. Jay Inslee has said the value of the destroyed properties in Okanogan County alone is more than $28 million.
President Obama has approved federal assistance for Okanogan County and the Colville confederated tribes to help repair or replace public infrastructure. The assistance approved means the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will reimburse Okanogan County and the Colvilles for 75 percent of the costs of eligible expenses related to disaster-damaged facilities such as roads, bridges and public utilities.
But the request for assistance to individuals was denied.
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In a letter sent Wednesday to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Reps. Doc Hastings and Dave Reichert urged the agency to review a decision that denied individual aid to people in Okanogan and Chelan counties.
“A disaster of this magnitude requires long-term federal assistance to help these communities respond, rebuild, and cope with this tragedy,” it said. “Because there are no comparable Washington state programs, FEMA assistance with housing and household goods is necessary.”
The letter says 87 homes were destroyed in Pateros, Okanogan County.
“More than 30-percent of all housing units were destroyed in this small town,” the lawmakers wrote. “You can see the damage caused by these wildfires is significant and in spite of the large, rural geographic area the damage is in most cases highly concentrated.”