Politics & Government

Wildfire relief bill on its way to President Trump’s desk despite Republican ‘no’ votes

It’s been 6 months since Paradise burned. Our drone video shows how it’s changed

The Camp Fire burned down thousands of buildings and killed 86 people in Paradise six months ago. How drone footage from days after the fire compares to what the city looks like in early May, 2019, as workers continue to cleanup the city.
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The Camp Fire burned down thousands of buildings and killed 86 people in Paradise six months ago. How drone footage from days after the fire compares to what the city looks like in early May, 2019, as workers continue to cleanup the city.

A long-awaited disaster relief package is finally on its way to President Donald Trump’s desk, meaning billions of dollars in potential assistance could soon be available to California wildfire victims.

The House of Representatives on Monday by a 354-58 vote approved a final version of the bill, providing $19.1 billion in aid to states affected by disasters, including wildfires and hurricanes.

Only Republicans opposed the bill, including two from California. Reps. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, and Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, voted against the measure.

Last month, a previous version of the bill passed the House with more opposition from Republicans, as well as from Trump.

At the time, Rep. Doug LaMalfa was the only California Republican to vote in favor of disaster aid. That version stalled in the Senate.

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“Our communities in Shasta and Butte Counties have been devastated by the Carr Fire and Camp Fire, respectively, and this funding is an important stepping stone towards recovery,” LaMalfa said in a statement after the House passed the latest legislation. His district includes Paradise.

LaMalfa said he worked with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, to put language in the bill to allow Gov. Gavin Newsom to certify Paradise’s immediate population as 5,000, instead of 27,000, which makes it eligible for more recovery grants.

California will be eligible for up to $12.6 billion of the funding, according to Feinstein.

There are not huge differences between the two bills, though Trump said he would not sign the previous version. The holdup over the bill was primarily over the amount of money going to Puerto Rico, which gets more than $900 million in this bill, and whether to allocate money to process migrants at the Mexico border. The bill does not include money for the border.

Massive wildfires continue to sweep through Northern California's wine region, forcing emergency evacuations and destroying more than 2,000 buildings. The fires began Sunday evening, though the initial cause is under investigation.

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Kate Irby is based in Washington, D.C. and reports on issues important to McClatchy’s California newspapers, including the Sacramento Bee, Fresno Bee and Modesto Bee. She previously reported on breaking news in D.C., politics in Florida for the Bradenton Herald and politics in Ohio for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
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