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FEMA Rejects Oregon's Request To Assist Rural Counties Slammed By Winter Storms

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown's Office/Flickr
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown with Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency turned down a request by Oregon for relief funds to assist farmers and other people hard hit by winter storms.

Gov. Kate Brown’s Office confirmed the denial Friday.

Oregon was slammed this winter by flooding and heavy snow, particularly in eastern Oregon where those snows collapsed the roofs of several onion storage facilities.

Farmers there said their damaged crops and facilities totaled millions of dollars in losses.

That led Brown to declare a state of emergency in January and request relief funds from FEMA.

In a letter sent Friday, FEMA Acting Administrator Robert Fenton denied that request.

“Based on our review of all the information available, it has been determined that the damage from this event was not of such severity and magnitude to be beyond the capabilities of the state,” Fenton wrote.

In recent days, FEMA also denied a vast majority of relief funds requested by North Carolina to deal with storm damage caused by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.

FEMA, the Transportation Security Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard were all reported to be considered for significant budget cuts this year, according to the Boston Globe. The Trump administration is considering using money from those agencies to bolster immigration enforcement.

Brown had traveled to Malheur County, Oregon, in February to view the winter storm damage. The state estimates as many as 500 buildings were damaged by the heavy snow.

“I committed to the people I met in Ontario that I’d do everything to expedite recovery efforts,” Brown said in a statement sent to OPB. “We will resubmit Oregon’s request for federal assistance to help struggling rural communities rebuild and bring back jobs to local economies.”

State officials say Oregon is also looking at ways to “streamline recovery and support rebuilding efforts” that do not depend on FEMA assistance.

Oregon has 30 days to appeal the federal agency’s decision.

Chris Lehman covers the Oregon state capitol for JPR as part of the Northwest News Network, a group of 12 Northwest public radio organizations which collaborate on regional news coverage. Chris graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He began his career producing arts features for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana and has been a reporter/announcer for NPR station WNIJ in DeKalb, Illinois. Chris has also reported from overseas, filing stories from Iraq, Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Northern Ireland, Zimbabwe and Uganda.