SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Gov. Jay Inslee’s request for individual assistance for residents in eastern Washington who were displaced when wildfires devastated their communities has been denied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The decision was announced in a letter Monday less than a week after President Joe Biden declared last year’s wildfires in Washington a major disaster and approved public assistance funds for the state, The Spokesman-Review reported.
The assistance was denied because the effects to the individuals affected “was not of such severity and magnitude to warrant the designation,” according to the FEMA. More than 85% of the buildings in Malden and Pine City, both located in rural Whitman County, burned in the Babb Road Fire last summer.
Mike Faulk, spokesperson for Inslee’s office, said federal individual assistance is difficult to secure and that the state has only received it once in the last decade, for the 2014 deadly landslide near the town of Oso.
“Our application was appropriate and we were saddened that the community won’t get this assistance, but it was always going to be a difficult bar to reach,” Faulk wrote in an email.
A statement from the Town of Malden and the Pine Creek Community Restoration Long Term Recovery Organization said the groups were “deeply disappointed and disagree with this decision” but remain committed to rebuilding as quickly as possible.
U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is trying to find the best path forward, her spokesman, Kyle VonEnde, said Monday.
Sen. Patty Murray said in a statement she would “continue exploring every avenue to get those affected by wildfires the relief they need, including support through the Small Business Administration.”
A decision on a disaster declaration by the Small Business Administration is likely in the next few days. That declaration can make low-interest loans available for homes or personal property lost to the fire.
In his proposed budget, Inslee is asking for $2.5 million in state assistance for people affected by wildfires and other disasters.