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HUD lays out requirements for Oregon $422 million disaster recovery grants

Stairwells are all that remain from a Talent apartment complex burned in the Almeda fire on Talent Avenue in this September 2020 file photo. This week, the U.S. Department of Housing, and Urban Development outlined requirements for how Oregon can allocate $422 million in federal disaster aid from the Labor Day 2020 fires. [Mail Tribune/file photo]

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has outlined how the state of Oregon can allocate an unprecedented $422 million in disaster aid authorized last fall.

More than $367 million of Oregon’s portion of the Community Development Block Grant disaster recovery grant will go toward local communities’ “unmet needs” following the Labor Day 2020 wildfires, according to HUD.

The remaining $55 million in the $422,286,000 disaster aid program authorized last fall will go toward wildfire mitigation.

The disaster recovery funds are typically used to help those most impacted by disasters — especially low-income residents in need of housing recovery assistance, according to the Oregon Housing and Community Services website. The mitigation funds, according to the state, are typically used to assess risks in communities affected by disaster, “and help make them more resilient to current and future risks.”

It’s the first time that the state of Oregon has received CDBG disaster recovery funding, which typically goes to states hard-hit by floods, earthquakes and hurricanes.

The 130-page HUD notice issues details about the government’s priorities for distributing $2 billion worth of aid to the state of Oregon, eight other states and the commonwealth of Puerto Rico for impacts that stem from 15 separate disasters in 2020.

Jackson County is one of seven Oregon counties eligible for the CDBG grants, along with Douglas, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion and Clackamas counties.

In a press release issued Tuesday, HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge of the Seattle regional office stated that “climate justice and racial equity remain central in our work to deliver swift resiliency at the forefront.”

Before the federal money can be allocated to Oregon, the CDBG grant requires the state to develop plans for how it will keep the public notified and engaged through the life of the grant program.

The HUD notice outlines steps that include needs assessments and an action plan that draws input from the public — specifically requiring the state to give residents, affected local governments and other interested parties enough time to review the state’s proposed action plan.

OHCS spokesperson James Kwasnik said Wednesday in an email that the state is still “forming its public engagement plan,” and hopes to have more info on its plans for public hearings in the coming weeks.

According to an OHCS release issued late Thursday, the state has already begun work on needs assessments required by the federal aid, and the state intends to have its draft action plan completed ahead of a June deadline.

The draft plan will be made public once complete, and 30-day notice will be given for public comments. HUD will draw from those public comments to review the action plan in a review period that could take up to 60 days.

Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.