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Oregon Program Will Help Wildfire Victims Navigate Recovery

Debris cleanup from the Almeda Fire at the Talent Mobile Estates in Talent, Oregon.
April Ehrlich/JPR
Debris cleanup from the Almeda Fire at the Talent Mobile Estates in Talent, Oregon.

Victims of last fall’s wildfires in Oregon could get more help navigating FEMA denials, financial recovery or rebuilding their homes. A new state-based program from the Oregon Department of Human Services is aimed at providing one-on-one assistance.

Over the next month, ODHS will roll out the disaster case management program. The goal is to provide one-on-one assistance for helping wildfire survivors. That could mean helping people who have been denied FEMA assistance or who are transitioning from interim to more permanent housing.

“The program is really right on time with regard to getting to that intermediate to long-term piece,” says Ed Flick, director of emergency management with ODHS. “That’s why it’s so important that we work with and start from where all those other short to intermediate projects have been going.”

Flick says fire victims do not have to have applied for FEMA assistance to participate in the disaster case management program.

It’s funded with a $6.3 million grant from FEMA and will run for the next 18 months.

Flick says his office is starting the program with state-based case managers. In the next 4-6 weeks they’ll hire a national nonprofit to run the program. More information will be available at the state wildfire recovery website or by calling the state resource hotline, 2-1-1.

“There has been work going on in the community to help people,” Flick says. “Bringing this in now recognizes that there’s still that need, and that that need is going to continue.”

Erik Neumann is JPR's news director. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.