January 12, 2019 - On Wednesday, President Trump announced he ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) within the Department of Homeland Security to suspend federal funds to California until the state government reforms its forest management policies. In the past, President Trump has blamed California’s devastating wildfires on the state’s environmental and forest management policies while ignoring the potential impact of climate change.
Many suggest the President’s claims about wildfire and forest management are unsubstantiated. President Trump’s critics argue he is using life-saving funds from FEMA for political purposes. Political leaders from California, including Senator Kamala Harris, quickly took to twitter to criticize the President for “threatening to withhold funds from survivors of a deadly natural disaster.” Senator Harris was joined by California Representatives Ami Bera, John Garamendi, and Jim Costa, who each condemned the President’s announcement. Governor Gavin Newsom also responded that his office is “already taking action to modernize and manage our forests and emergency responses.”
It is unclear whether President Trump has already ordered FEMA to withhold the funds, or whether the order is forthcoming. News outlets and social media are divided on whether the President’s tweet is detailing an executive order or suggesting the policy change. Today, FEMA has not made any announcements on its website that it would be withholding any funds from California, and is not responding to press inquiries due to the partial shutdown.
FEMA has already approved $48 million in aid in response to over 6,600 applications for individual assistance from California residents. While President Trump could most likely order FEMA to withhold further funds from California, it is doubtful that FEMA would be able to withhold the $48 million it has already approved for recovery projects.
Source: Rural County Representatives of California