Congress Approves Added Funds for Cerro Grande Fire Program

The House and Senate approved approximately $89.4 million in additional funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Cerro Grande Fire Assistance Program to pay outstanding fire claims. The claims resulted from the National Park Service having lost control of a prescribed burn in the Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico nearly three years ago.

“The National Association of Independent Insurers (NAII) commends Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) for his continued dedication to addressing the need for additional funds for the outstanding fire claims. This action by the Congress is a great start, however, we strongly hope the momentum will continue with FEMA’s Inspector General and the General Accounting Office (GAO) conducting the necessary audits expeditiously. The bill is now in the hands of the President, and we hope he will take swift action to sign the legislation into law,” Carl Parks, senior vice president, government relations, NAII, remarked.

The conference agreement voted on late last week provides up to $90 million in program funding and retains the Senate language stating that up to $5 million may be used for administrative expenses. Funding for this program is contained in the VA/HUD appropriations section of the bill. Overall, this portion of the omnibus bill was considered to be $700 million over budget. To rectify this situation, conferees reduced all funding in this section by 10 percent, hence the $90 million.

Additionally, while conferees were able to reduce the level of the across the board cut in the Senate-passed bill, it was not eliminated and stands at .678 percent. This results in a final funding level of nearly $89.4 million.

After intense negotiations, ultimately, House and Senate conferees worked together to develop a package that would pass the House with the Senate’s support. The same bill immediately passed the Senate and is now headed to the President’s desk for signature.