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Reps. Huffman, Thompson, California Colleagues Demand FEMA Change Course in Wildfire Claim

January 10, 2020

Washington, D.C. – Today, Representatives Jared Huffman (CA-02) and Mike Thompson (CA-05) led a bipartisan congressional letter to Peter T. Gaynor, the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), regarding the agency’s recent claims to the settlement fund established by PG&E for victims of the 2017 and 2018 California wildfires. In the letter, the members of Congress called on FEMA to drop the claim and, in addition, requested an urgent meeting to discuss the legal and ethical reasoning behind the agency’s claim.

“This claim by FEMA in the federal bankruptcy court puts at risk the possibility that the thousands of families still struggling to rebuild their lives will not receive the restitution they deserve,” the congressional letter states. “Not only does this reversal by FEMA betray these promises, it will serve to undermine any future effort to coordinate rebuilding and debris removal in response to future natural disasters as FEMA’s reputation as an honest and fair partner will be diminished.”

The letter was signed by 38 bipartisan members. The list includes Reps. LaMalfa (R-Richvale), Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove), McClintock (R-Elk Grove), Matsui (D-Sacramento), Bera (D-Elk Grove), McNerney (D-Stockton), DeSaulnier (D-Concord), Speier (D-Hillsborough), Swalwell (D-Dublin), Costa (D-Fresno), Khanna (D-Fremont), Eshoo (D-Menlo Park), Lofgren (D-San Jose), Panetta (D-Carmel), Cox (D-Fresno), Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara), Brownley (D-Westlake Village), Chu (D-Monterey Park), Schiff (D-Burbank), Cardenas (D-Los Angeles), Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), Aguilar (D-Redlands), Napolitano (D-Norwalk), Lieu (D-Torrance), Torres (D-Pomona), Sanchez (D-Whittier), Cisneros (D-Yorba Linda), Roybal-Allard (D-Downey), Takano (D-Riverside), Waters (D-Los Angeles), Porter (D-Irvine), Correa (D-Santa Ana), Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), Rouda (D-Laguna Beach), Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano), Vargas (D-San Diego), Peters (D-San Diego), Davis (D-San Diego).         

Read the full letter here or below.

Dear Acting Administrator Gaynor:

 

We write to you with great dismay and concern as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) moves forward with its decision to litigate claims to the settlement fund for wildfire victims established by PG&E in their ongoing bankruptcy case. We believe this decision by FEMA jeopardizes the intended purpose of the fund, which was established to provide some measure of justice and restitution to thousands of households victimized by wildfires in Northern California in 2017 and 2018.

 

This claim by FEMA in the federal bankruptcy court puts at risk the possibility that the thousands of families still struggling to rebuild their lives will not receive the restitution they deserve. The inequity of this situation is evident, as we are told by victims that they were reassured by FEMA that they would not face additional costs when accepting federal offers of debris removal. Not only does this reversal by FEMA betray these promises, it will serve to undermine any future effort to coordinate rebuilding and debris removal in response to future natural disasters as FEMA’ s reputation as an honest and fair partner will be diminished.

 

This decision by FEMA has the potential to undermine FEMA’s reputation as an honest and fair partner. We ask that you reconsider your decision to pursue a claim in federal bankruptcy court, based on law and regulation, or administrative and other decisions. Additionally, we request a meeting as soon as possible to understand the reasonings behind this claim. Given the February 11th hearing scheduled in the federal bankruptcy court, time is of the essence for FEMA to reconsider this approach. We look forward to your response.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

Jared Huffman                                                Mike Thompson

Member of Congress                                      Member of Congress

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