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Open Letter to California Wildfire Survivors from FEMA Region 9 Administrator Robert Fenton

Release Date Release Number
Jan 16, 2020 RIX-RA-20-01

January 16, 2020

 

 

Dear Fellow Californians:

 

We at FEMA are committed to our mission of helping people before, during and after disasters. When wildfires raged throughout our state in 2015, 2017 and 2018, we stood with you and helped manage the disasters.

 

You may be aware that PG&E equipment was the source of several severe wildfires. As you continue to recover from the disasters that impacted your lives and communities, we want to share information about our agency’s claim against PG&E and clarify any questions you may have.

 

In submitting claims in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, FEMA joined other federal and state agencies who are trying to hold PG&E responsible for its role in the wildfires. FEMA provided billions of dollars in disaster assistance, and we seek reimbursement for assistance from PG&E so those funds can be used in future disasters.

 

We have no interest in reducing the funds PG&E owes survivors. Unfortunately, FEMA and the State of California have been excluded from the negotiations aimed to settle the claims in the bankruptcy. We want the process to address both survivors’ and taxpayers’ interests as well as avoid the possibility that some survivors would receive compensation for the same wildfire expenses twice.

 

Receiving compensation twice for the same disaster is known as a duplication of benefits, and it violates FEMA’s authority and the federal Stafford Act. If you received disaster assistance from the federal government following the Butte Fire in 2015, the North Bay fires in 2017, or the Camp Fire in 2018, and you are participating in the claim settlement process with PG&E, please work with your legal representatives to avoid receiving duplicate benefits. In a scenario where you received disaster assistance from the federal government for expenses, and then also received duplicate assistance from PG&E for the same expenses, you would be required to return disaster assistance to the federal government. FEMA is seeking direct reimbursement from PG&E to avoid that possibility.

 

We know you may have questions about FEMA’s role in the PG&E claims process, and we want to help reduce the confusion and misinformation that has circulated in the past few weeks. We invite you to look at our webpage that includes frequently asked questions and answers. Please visit www.fema.gov/fema-region-ix-updates for more information.

 

Thank you for your interest in FEMA’s role in the PG&E wildfire claims process.  Our highest priority is to continue to support your wildfire recovery.

 

Sincerely,

 

Robert J. Fenton

Regional Administrator

Last updated Jan 16, 2020