Washington, D.C. (June 15, 2021) – Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) today introduced the Making Aid for Local Disasters Equal Now (MALDEN) Act to expedite the deployment of disaster assistance to rural communities impacted by a natural disaster. The bill is named after the town of Malden, Washington, which was devastated by the Babb Road Fire in 2020.
“The devastation caused by the Babb Road fire took my breath away. The town of Malden was destroyed – the city hall, post office, and fire station – all burned to the ground. Nearly one year later, and families are still struggling to rebuild their homes and piece their lives back together. It’s heartbreaking,” Rodgers said. “The moment after I laid eyes on the damage, I went to work advocating for federal assistance to be sent to Malden and other towns in Whitman County to help with the recovery efforts. Unfortunately, far too often, rural communities are at a disadvantage in getting the disaster assistance that they desperately need. This bill will help fix that.”
The MALDEN Act would amend the Stafford Act to:
- Require the president to approve or deny a disaster declaration request within 30 days. If the request is not denied within 30 days, then it is approved.
- Ensure rural communities receive recovery assistance by requiring FEMA to work in coordination with state leadership to provide guidance to local emergency managers on developing a recovery team. They must also assist in identifying short and long-term recovery resources, including resources to prevent secondary natural disasters like flooding, mudslides and rockslides.
- Instruct FEMA to work with the state emergency management agency to make disaster case workers available for rural communities in the event that a request for Individual Assistance is made and denied.
Cathy recently visited Malden to attend a town hall meeting and discuss the ongoing efforts to help rebuild. During the meeting, she shared with residents her plans to introduce this legislation and solicited their input. The following Malden residents and organizations have voiced their support for the MALDEN Act:
“County emergency responders are often the first on the scene following a disaster to help coordinate clean-up, recovery, and rebuilding efforts in order to return our residents’ lives back to normal as quickly as possible. As the frequency, severity, and cost of natural and man-made disasters continue to increase, the Making Aid for Local Disasters Equal Now Act would help ensure that local governments have the resources necessary to fulfill our public sector responsibilities of keeping our residents safe and secure. Counties thank Rep. McMorris Rodgers for her efforts to help counties respond to disasters.” – Matthew Chase, National Association of Counties
“As a firefighter and resident of Malden, I helped residents evacuate from Malden during the Babb Road Fire. The next day, I showed up as a town council member to volunteer and help however I could. We all were told day after day that help was coming from the federal government. We heard this for nearly six months. How long is too long to wait? Help should always arrive as soon as possible for those who need it, and I hope others in Congress will support this timely, desperately-needed legislation to make sure other communities can get help when they need it most.” – Scott Hokonson, Babb Road Fire Recovery
“The Town of Malden lends its unequivocal and strong support for the MALDEN Act sponsored by Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Had such a provision been in place prior to September 7, 2020, the lives of our area residents would be much improved today, as would our town’s recovery efforts. We are deeply appreciative of Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers’s ongoing efforts to help her constituents in Malden and Pine City, and we look forward to the passage of the MALDEN Act.” – Dan Harwood, Mayor of Malden
“In my 13 years as an Emergency Manager for Spokane County, I’ve personally guided three Presidentially Declared Disasters and assisted with two others outside of our county. The Babb Road fire was unique, but I can confidently say that any of the previous disasters I’ve assisted with would have had similar difficulties had we experienced delays similar to Whitman County’s declaration. When these delays happen, real people suffer the consequences. I’ve had eight months to reflect on how different this recovery could’ve been with a law in-place that held agencies, and ultimately the president, accountable. The MALDEN Act would allow for a timely decision on approval or denial of Public Assistance and Individual Assistance under the Robert T. Stafford Act.” – Gerry Bozarth, Spokane County Emergency Management
TIMELINE OF EVENTS:
- September 4, 2020 – Babb Road Fire swept through Whitman County, destroying eighty-percent of Malden and Pine City’s homes and structures.
- September 10, 2020 – Cathy visited Malden and Pine City to survey the damage, meet with constituents and local leaders, and speak at a town gathering with Governor Jay Inslee.
- September 16, 2020 – Cathy shared stories and photos with President Donald Trump and urged him to approve Governor Inslee’s request for a disaster declaration.
- September 17, 2020 – Cathy wrote a letter to the president with the Washington Congressional delegation asking for prompt approval of FEMA disaster assistance.
- November 2020 – Cathy and the delegation sent a second letter to the president encouraging approval of assistance.
- December 26, 2020 – Cathy spoke with the president directly about the Governor’s request and sent a follow up letter asking for immediate approval of direct assistance.
- February 4, 2021 – President Biden approved the disaster declaration, providing public assistance for government entities, public infrastructure, and buildings Individual assistance for households was denied.
- May 27, 2021 – Cathy attended a town hall in Malden to discuss the recovery efforts and solicit feedback on the MALDEN Act, which was incorporated in the introduced legislation.