Thompson, Huffman, 38 Members Tell FEMA to Reconsider Claim to Wildfire Victims Fund

Jan 10, 2020
Press Release
Tell FEMA that needs of 2017 and 2018 fires should be prioritized

Washington – Today Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-05), Rep. Jared Huffman (CA-02) and 38 Members of Congress from both parties wrote to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) asking it to drop its claim to funding in the settlement fund set up for survivors of the 2017 and 2018 Northern California wildfires. The fund was established by Pacific Gas and Electric to help the thousands still rebuilding since the fires. Thompson, Huffman, and the signers believe FEMA should not be asking to receive those funds as they are first and foremost owed to those survivors still trying to rebuild their lives.

The letter was signed by Representatives Maxine Waters (CA-43), Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Brad Sherman (CA-30), Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32), Susan A. Davis (CA-53), Adam B. Schiff (CA-28), Linda T. Sánchez (CA-38), Jim Costa (CA-16), Doris O. Matsui (CA-06), Jerry McNerney (CA-09), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Tom McClintock (CA-04), Judy Chu (CA-27), John Garamendi (CA-03), Ami Bera (CA-07), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Doug LaMalfa (CA-01), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Scott H. Peters (CA-52), Eric Swalwell (CA-15), Mark Takano (CA-41), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Pete Aguilar (CA-31), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Ted Lieu (CA-33), Norma J. Torres (CA-35), Salud O. Carbajal (CA-24), J. Luis Correa (CA-46), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr. (CA-39), T.J. Cox (CA-21), Mike Levin (CA-49), Katie Porter (CA-45), and Harley Rouda (CA-48), and a copy is below.

January 10, 2019

The Honorable Peter Gaynor
Acting Administrator

Federal Emergency Management Agency
Federal Center Plaza
500 C St, SW
Washington, DC 20472

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.

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Congressman Mike Thompson is proud to represent California’s 5th Congressional District, which includes all or part of Contra Costa, Lake, Napa, Solano and Sonoma Counties.  He is a senior member of the House Committee on Ways and Means where he chairs the Subcommittee on Tax Policy. Rep. Thompson is Chairman of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. He is also Co-Chair of the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Wine Caucus and a member of the fiscally-conservative Blue Dog Coalition.