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Fire survivors: Make your voices heard

Rogue Valley residents frequently complain that state government doesn’t listen to their concerns — with some justification. Well, one state agency wants to hear from survivors of the Almeda and Obenchain fires, along with local governments, nonprofit agencies and groups working to help fire survivors. Don’t delay: the deadline is Monday. And there is a great deal of money at stake.

The information gathered will be used to draft a plan for distributing $422 million in federal disaster relief funds headed to Oregon from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The plan will be open for public comments in May and submitted to HUD in June.

The money — the first ever Community Development Block Grant for disaster recovery in Oregon history — will be used to help replace housing for low- and moderate-income families, and can also be spent for public infrastructure and economic revitalization efforts. Oregon Housing and Community Services, the state agency conducting the survey, says the action plan will focus mostly on housing, and officials want to hear from those who were most affected by the fires.

The Labor Day fires of 2020 destroyed more than 2,500 homes and 170 businesses in Jackson County. Fires elsewhere in the state that day also consumed homes, but the most extensive damage occurred here. Many survivors are still displaced. Those are the people state officials most need to hear from as they decide how best to allocate the federal disaster money.

Three surveys — one in English and one in Spanish designed for residents or former residents displaced by the fires and one for local governments, nonprofits and recovery groups — can be found online. Responses are requested by Monday, April 4. For more information or to share additional information, email the agency at ReOregon@hcs.oregon.gov.

Fire survivors have been through a great deal, and many still face hardships. While it might be tempting to dismiss this request as too little, too late, don’t miss the opportunity to make your voice heard by those with resources to help. Take a few minutes to respond to the survey, and watch for news of the public comment period coming in May.