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$422M federal grant approved to assist 2020 Oregon wildfire survivors

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has greenlit a $422 million grant to help survivors of the 2020 Labor Day fires recover and rebuild.

More than 4,300 homes were damaged or lost to the fires throughout Oregon in 2020. While it has taken two years to achieve, this federal funding is intended to ramp up the recovery process.

Oregon Housing and Community Services will administer the grant funds through “ReOregon” which includes several programs to assist fire survivors. Public Information Officer Delia Hernandez said fire survivors who wish to apply for benefits should take several steps this fall.

“What we want to tell folks today is to get ready,” she said. “And one of the most important things they can do is connect with a disaster case manager so they can put you up to speed on the things that you need to do.”

Chance Johnson hugs Sarah Hunter the two loaded a horse into a trailer to be evacuated north on Sept. 9 2020 in Canby, Oregon. Four wildfires continued gaining ground in Clackamas County aided by high winds.

You can reach the disaster case manager hotline at 833-669-0554 or go online to find a case manager connection at ReOregon.

Hernandez said ReOregon benefits should be available to fire survivors starting in 2023. Survivors should start collecting documents now to make sure they are ready to apply for ReOregon benefits:

  • Connect with a disaster case manager (DCM). A DCM provides a case management approach with a defined plan and recovery goals that identify unmet needs. They work toward those recovery goals with the survivor and provide services such as referrals for housing navigation, employment training and procurement, family stabilization resources and mental/behavioral health connections. If survivors aren’t currently connected to a DCM, they should call the DCM hotline at 833-669-0554.
  • Housing navigators are the best point of contact for housing recovery issues, including help with finding a new rental or accessing financial assistance to help rebuild or replace the home. Find a local housing navigator at Re.Oregon.gov by clicking at “Assistance available now.”
  • Collect the documents that survivors will need to apply:
    • Sign up for (bilingual) email updates at Re.Oregon.gov.
    • Evidence of fire impact (type of home, proof of loss, household size).
    • Income and bank statements (survivors will need their most recent documents at the time of application).
    • Record of any other benefits or recovery supports received, including insurance payments.
    • Photo ID for all household members over the age of 18.

The $422 million in grant funds is available to anyone who lost a home or is still recovering from wildfire destruction in Clackamas, Douglas, Jackson, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, and Marion counties. ”Recovery has been tough for families and individuals who have struggled during the past two years to find safe and permanent housing,” said Alex Campbell, chief external affairs officer of the Disaster Resilience and Recovery Division at Oregon Housing and Community Services. “With the approval of the Action Plan, we are on step closer to bringing much needed funding to these communities. The next step will be completing a grant agreement with HUD.”

ReOregon includes several programs to assist fire survivors. The Homeowner Assistance and Reconstruction Program (HARP), which will launch early next year. The first phase of HARP will be open to fire survivors who are low or moderate income and have not yet completed their recovery (do not yet have a permanent, safe home).

Low or moderate income will be defined as an annual household income, adjusted for household size. For example, a two-person household earning $58,150 or less would qualify for phase one.

For eligible survivors who have not started rebuilding, OHCS will provide new manufactured or modular homes to replace lost homes. The size of the replacement home will be based on the size of the home that was destroyed and, in some cases, by need based on the number of individuals in the household.

For homeowners who have already started to rebuild or have already made a substantial down payment toward the purchase of a new manufactured home, the HARP program can help fund remaining costs. Survivors will contribute any previous benefits, such as an insurance payment or FEMA structural damage award, toward the project.

Source: OPB

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