Padilla, Sullivan Bill to Increase Federal Funding to Better Respond to and Suppress Wildfires Advances in Senate

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, bipartisan legislation authored by U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) advanced out of the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The Fire Suppression and Response Funding Assurance Act would improve the federal government’s response to wildfire disasters by ensuring state and local fire suppression assets that are pre-deployed are eligible for FEMA’s Fire Management Assistance Grants (FMAG) once granted for an incident and allow flexibility for the federal cost share of such grants to be increased beyond 75 percent.

“Natural disasters continue to cost California families their homes, their livelihoods, and most tragically, their lives,” said Senator Padilla. “Our bill will ensure the federal government helps shoulder the financial burden of deploying and importantly pre-deploying assets to help protect communities and save lives. Moving this bill through committee brings us one step closer to providing the state and country the resources it needs to prepare for and recover from disasters.”

“Alaskans face an unprecedented array of natural disasters—floods, wildfires, typhoons, earthquakes, blizzards, among many others,” said Senator Sullivan. “Because of Alaska’s vast size and elevated risk, our state and communities often need greater federal assistance to respond to and recover from these kinds of crises, as we did following Typhoon Merbok’s devastation of Western Alaska last year. I want to thank my Senate colleagues for helping advance our legislation to give FEMA the flexibility and authority to increase its funding match to ensure Alaskans have the resources they need to quickly and fully recover, while also strategically mitigating disaster risks to our communities.”

Under the bill’s provisions, state and local governments may use the assistance to cover the cost of the predeployment of assets and resources during times of high risk. This would increase the speed with which communities in distress receive resources in the critical moments just after a disaster, ultimately saving lives.

This bill would make FMAGs consistent with other FEMA disaster assistance by stating that the federal cost share of FMAGs shall be not less than 75 percent of the eligible cost of such assistance. This bill does not mandate any increase but simply allows for additional flexibility. FMAGs are granted on an incident-by-incident basis, and as we have seen across the West, fires often occur in the same area consecutively in the same year.

Full text of the bill is available here.


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