Politics

Trump declares Oregon emergency, federal relief might be package deal for Western states

By John Notarianni (OPB)
Portland, Ore. Sept. 11, 2020 12:22 a.m. Updated: Sept. 11, 2020 1:02 p.m.

President Donald Trump has declared a federal emergency in Oregon, which will ease a coordinated response.

Madeline Smith walks between what was the living room and laundry room of her house in Talent, Ore., south of Medford. She has been picking through the rubble looking for anything that can be salvaged after wildfire tore through her home.

Madeline Smith walks between what was the living room and laundry room of her house in Talent, Ore., south of Medford. She has been picking through the rubble looking for anything that can be salvaged after wildfire tore through her home.

Brandon Swanson / OPB

President Donald Trump has declared a federal emergency in Oregon, a step requested by Gov. Kate Brown and all seven members of Oregon’s Congressional delegation.

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The declaration will make it easier to coordinate wildfire response and smooth the path for Oregon to receive more financial help from the federal government.

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Once the emergency declaration is signed, Oregon officials will need to compile a report on the devastation caused by this week’s fires in pursuit of a major disaster declaration.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley said that second designation will bring “significant financial assistance,” and he believes Oregon should easily qualify.

“I really hope and believe that, in the face of such a disaster in Oregon, that there would be no politics at play,” he said.

Merkley also said he’ll be working with U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, a fellow Democrat, to put together a relief package of relief for states across the western United States, including states hit by fire on the West Coast and possibly Texas, still struggling with damage from Hurricane Laura.

“I understand the East Coast doesn’t have this issue,” he said. “You can go from Maine to Florida and not worry about forest fires. But this is a big swath of America in crisis, in a dramatic crisis.”

Fires have burned some 900,000 acres in Oregon this week, causing at least four deaths and untold millions of dollars in damage.

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