Legislation creates a state fund for local governments to help them secure federal resources for wildfire hazard mitigation
DENVER, CO– The House Committee Energy and Environment today passed legislation sponsored by Representative Lisa Cutter to make it easier for communities to secure federal funding for wildfire hazard mitigation projects. The bill passed 7-4.
“From Colorado Springs and Salida to Jefferson County and Durango, wildfires have burned through communities across Colorado, destroying homes, critical infrastructure and livelihoods,” said Rep. Cutter, D-Jefferson County. “Nearly half of Coloradans live in areas at risk from wildfires, a threat that won’t go away unless we act. I’ve seen the heartbreaking toll on families who have lost everything while we continue to leave millions of federal dollars on the table that could help. This bill will allow our communities to take advantage of federal funding to reduce the risk of wildfires and floods, which have had catastrophic impacts on our friends, our neighbors and our state.”
With limited state resources, Colorado communities are in desperate need of federal funding for wildfire hazard mitigation projects. These initiatives take a land and building code-based approach to reducing the hazards that cause wildfires to spread and increase their intensity. Nearly half of the state’s population lives in an area at-risk of wildfire, and that figure grew 45 percent from 2013-2018.
The federal government has several grant programs that states can take advantage of to reduce wildfire hazards and risks, but they often require a local match. Recently, the City of Colorado Springs had to walk away from $2 million in federal funding because they couldn’t come find the small local match needed to accept the grant.
Furthermore, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is creating a grant program known as the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) to provide resources for local governments to facilitate the development of hazard mitigation plans and support projects that improve building codes. Colorado needs to be positioned to take advantage of these newly available resources.
HB20-1142 would create a cash fund to offer grants to local communities that they can leverage to take advantage of BRIC funding. The bill would allow the state to pull down federal funding for these critical projects. The funding for the cash fund would come from a very small .05 percent fee on premiums for some property and hazard insurance that would total approximately $3 per policy holder.
The bill is supported by the Colorado Municipal League.