Oct 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump reverses decision to reject California wildfire aid

A firefighter sprays water on hot spots while battling the Glass Fire on October 01, 2020 in Calistoga, California

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced on Friday that President Trump reversed his earlier decision to reject wildfire disaster relief for the state, hours after Trump administration officials explained why the state should not receive the aid.

Why it matters: California is facing its worst fire season on record, with over 4.1 million acres burned this year.

  • The Trump administration's initial rejection "had counties with COVID-impacted economies scrambling to figure out what to do without the aid," the Los Angeles Times wrote on Friday.

What they're saying: "Just got off the phone with President Trump who has approved our Major Disaster Declaration request. Grateful for his quick response," Newsom tweeted.

  • White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere told Axios in an emailed statement that Newsom and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) "spoke and presented a convincing case and additional on-the-ground perspective for reconsideration leading the President to approve the declaration."

Earlier Friday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied Newsom's original request, which was sent last month, for disaster relief funds to clean up the damage from six recent fires across the state.

  • "The damage assessments conducted with state and local partners determined that the early September fires were not of such severity and magnitude to exceed the combined capabilities of the state, affected local governments, voluntary agencies and other responding federal agencies," FEMA officials told ABC News.

Flashback: Last year, Trump threatened to withhold federal aid from California.

  • "Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forest fires that, with proper Forest Management, would never happen. Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!," Trump said in a tweet in 2019.
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