House Of Representatives Passes Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández’s Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act

U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández

From the Office of U.S. Rep. Leger Fernández

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández’s bipartisan Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives. 

It passed as part of the bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2023. If signed into law, her bill would authorize full compensation for New Mexico residents and business owners for losses caused by the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon wildfire.

The Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act was introduced by Rep. Leger Fernández and U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and was cosponsored by U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-NM) and Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-NM).

“Today, my House colleagues recognized the federal government’s responsibility for the devastation the Forest Service-started wildfires wreaked on our communities when the House overwhelmingly passed the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act in the NDAA. Even as we grieve, we must rebuild from the intergenerational loss of homes and business, beautiful forests, and invaluable memories. This bill is an essential first step to provide full compensation for these losses so that the rebuilding can truly begin. I will work tirelessly until we succeed in getting my gente the compensation they deserve.” Leger Fernández said. 

“This Act is urgently needed because FEMA disaster assistance under the Stafford Act is not meant to provide full compensation for loss of property from natural disasters. These wildfires, however, were man-made disasters and responsibility for the losses lies with the federal government.” Leger Fernández added. 

“The House passage of the NDAA also proves our commitment to those who serve our country,” Leger Fernández concluded. “This year’s defense bill includes bold initiatives to support a diverse military and civilian workforce. The bill supports pay raises for service members and civilians and deepens our alliances and partnerships during a critical moment for democracies worldwide. Keeping Americans safe and strengthening our country’s national security will always be one of my highest priorities as a Member of Congress.”

“During times of hardship, New Mexicans show our true spirit by banding together. That’s why it has been so important for our delegation to partner and support communities and families impacted by this year’s historic wildfires,” Heinrich said. “I’m pleased to see the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act make significant progress in the House and look forward to building on this momentum in the Senate. It’s time to make New Mexicans whole again.” 

“I am proud of the important progress the House made for New Mexicans in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act,” Luján said. “Specifically, the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act that I introduced with Rep. Leger Fernández will strengthen federal assistance for New Mexicans who suffered losses from the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire. I will continue building support for this legislation in the Senate to deliver relief for communities during this recovery process.”

“I was proud to support the inclusion of the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act in the FY 23 National Defense Authorization Act,” Rep. Yvette Herrell said. “This legislation ensures that the victims of the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire can access the compensation they deserve and so desperately need. While this is just a first step, I look forward to working with my fellow members of our delegation to get this fire assistance across the finish line and help so many families in New Mexico.”

“As our communities continue to battle devastating wildfires, the federal government has a special responsibility to make New Mexicans whole again,” Rep. Stansbury said. “New Mexicans are resilient, but we need federal support to rebuild. I was proud to cosponsor this amendment to fund communities affected by the largest wildfire in our state’s history. As we respond to the changing conditions caused by the climate crisis and a millennial drought, we must double down on our investments in long term solutions for land stewardship, community resilience, and water security to prevent even more severe impacts for our communities.”

Background: 

About the Hermit’s Peak Fire Assistance Act:

  • Establishes an Office of Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Claims within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to receive, process, and pay claims in accordance with this Act.
  • Described allowable damages including: 
    • Loss of property, including: an uninsured or underinsured property loss; a decrease in the value of real property; damage to physical infrastructure including irrigation infrastructure; a cost resulting from lost subsistence from hunting, fishing, firewood gathering, timbering, grazing, or agricultural activities conducted on land damaged by the fire; a cost of reforestation or revegetation on Tribal or non-Federal land;
    • Business loss, to include: damage to tangible assets or inventory; business interruption losses; overhead costs; and employee wages for work not performed;
    • Financial loss, to include: increased mortgage interest costs; in insurance deductible; a temporary living or relocation expense; lost wages or personal income; emergency staffing expenses; debris removal and other cleanup costs; a premium for flood insurance; and costs for efforts to reduce the risk of wildfire, flood, or other natural disaster in the counties specified in the major disaster declaration; and
    • Any other damages that the FEMA Administrator determines to be appropriate for inclusion as property, business, or financial loss.
  • Provides that the Federal cost share of assistance provided for State or local projects or under the Other Needs Program Assistance shall be 100 percent.

The Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act passed as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of FY 2023.  The House’s version of FY23 NDAA includes a range of key national security priorities for House Democrats:

The NDAA will strengthen national security, support the development of new technologies and our country’s democratic values, and provide our service members and their families the foundation for America’s defense. 

The NDAA also included:

  • Sen. Heinrich’s and Leger Fernández Cerro de la Olla Wilderness Establishment Act, that will establish the Cerro de la Olla within the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument. 
  • Vital benefits for service members and their families, including a 4.6 percent pay raise for service members and civilian personnel, 2.4 percent inflation bonuses for service members earning less than $45,000/year and a $15/hour minimum wage for workers on federal service and construction contracts.
  • Support for HBCUs and other minority serving institutions, allocating over $111 million for research activities at HBCUS and establishing a pilot program to increase research capacity at minority serving institutions.
  • Civilian harm mitigation measures, including the establishment of a Commission on Civilian Harm and a Center for Excellence in Civilian Harm Mitigation at the Department of Defense.
  • New investments in science and technology competitiveness, including $275 million in additional funding for next-generation capabilities in hypersonics, electronic warfare, directed energy, artificial intelligence, and software.
  • Supply chain security, including an assessment of dual-use technology that the Chinese Communist Party might exploit and improving risk management in DoD supply chains involving pharmaceutical products.
  • Resources for U.S. allies and partners, including $1 billion for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) and funding for the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI) and Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI).

A summary of the provisions in the FY23 NDAA is available here.

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