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FEMA issues guidelines for Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act

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(The Center Square) – The Federal Emergency Management Agency published its final regulations for the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act on Tuesday.

The news comes after FEMA received a public comment period on the Interim Final Regulations, including written comments and statements made during public meetings in Mora, San Miguel, Colfax, and Taos counties, according to a press release from FEMA.

“The public comments received from impacted community members and recovery stakeholders played an instrumental role in shaping the final regulations, underscoring FEMA’s unwavering commitment to transparency and community engagement,” FEMA wrote in the release.

The final regulations “remove caps on compensation associated with reforestation, revegetation, and risk reduction efforts on lands directly impacted by the fire, allowing the Claims Office to fully compensate for those losses and practices,” according to the release.

Here are some notable provisions of the final regulations, according to FEMA’s release:

Allow compensation for property values that have been substantially and enduringly reduced due to the fire’s impact, acknowledging the prolonged recovery process.Extend the deadline for compensation related to mental health treatment and mental health conditions resulting from, or worsened by, the fire that are also eligible for coverage.Extend the compensation period for donations to November 14, 2022.Expand compensation for reimbursement of expert opinions, enhancing accuracy in determining appropriate compensation amounts.Extend the timeframe for reopening claims, recognizing the ongoing nature of recovery and rebuilding efforts.

U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján, D-New Mexico, said the issued guidelines will help New Mexicans finally receive assistance.

“This process will not be perfect, but the final regulations clearly lay out how impacted New Mexicans can receive assistance while ensuring that compensation reaches those who need it most,” Luján said in a release. “Now, I will continue to work with the administration and state and local partners to get this funding out to families as quickly as possible.”

Plus, Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said she will hold FEMA accountable for its role in the fire.

“I was also glad to see the federal government incorporate many of the recommendations of my administration and affected New Mexicans, including fully compensating victims for reforestation and revegetation and extending the window for compensation for mental health treatment and conditions,” Grisham said in the release. “I urge New Mexicans to apply for this relief.

“Now, the federal government must focus on getting these resources out as quickly as possible to the New Mexicans affected by the fire with an eye on cutting through red tape and making this process as easy as possible for those seeking funding,” she added. “I will continue to hold FEMA accountable for their role in the worst disaster in our state’s history.”

Since opening its physical claims offices, FEMA has issued $37 million in compensation payments associated with the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act.

Payments have compensated losses, evacuation expenses, homeowner’s insurance deductibles, debris removal, erosion control, and debris flow barriers.

The Claims Office expects to disburse over $100 million by January 1, 2024, and over $1 billion by January 1, 2025.

Plus, FEMA’s Public Assistance Program has greenlit more than $64.3 million for New Mexico to reimburse state and local governments for “emergency protective measures, debris removal, and repair or replacement of public facilities, roads, and bridges,” the release said.

People can see the published rule here.

Claimants may call the Claims Helpline at 505-995-7133 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Mountain Time, Monday through Thursday, to speak to a Claims Office team member. Or, they can email the Claims Office at ClaimsOffice@fema.dhs.gov.

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