House approves $2.5 billion for NM fire relief - Albuquerque Journal

House approves $2.5 billion for NM fire relief

Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez is joined by U.S House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Jerry Gomez, of Rociada, and Las Vegas Mayor Louie Trujillo, in a discussion about the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire complex on Sept. 26. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed a bill that includes $2.5 billion for victims of the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire in northern New Mexico.

The fire began as two Forest Service burns and blazed across more than 340,000 acres.

On Thursday, the Senate passed the funding as part of a continuing resolution, a budget agreement that needs to be signed to avoid a government shutdown.

The bill now heads to President Biden’s desk. 

If approved, the legislation would direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency to create a relief application program specifically for Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire victims. 

All of New Mexico’s Congressional Democrats voted to pass the stopgap funding bill. 

Sen. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., said the federal government “has a moral obligation to do right” by the residents impacted by the fire.  

“I’ve looked New Mexicans in the eyes who have lost everything, from their irreplaceable family heirlooms, to their cherished land and livestock, to the food in the refrigerator,” Luján said. “Their heritage, their stories, their livelihoods—all upended by a fire started by the federal government and the flooding that followed.

Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-N.M., was credited with helping secure the wildfire relief funds. But Herrell voted against the full package.  

In a statement on Friday, she said she was proud to “have worked across the aisle” to compensate wildfire victims. 

But Herrell said the final version was a “government spending spree during a time of record inflation.” 

“I cannot in good conscience vote for reckless spending, especially when billions of dollars are being squeezed from hardworking American families,” Herrell said.

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