Gov. Rick Perry today announced that up to $250,000 from the Texas Disaster Relief Fund will be distributed through Combined Community Action Inc. to provide seven-day emergency hotel vouchers for individuals and families whose homes have been destroyed in the Bastrop County fire. Combined Community Action will also administer flexible assistance cards using up to $350,000 from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs to cover essential expenses for these individuals and families.
"Thanks to generous donations to the Texas Disaster Relief Fund, we can provide some basic necessities to Texans whose homes have been destroyed due to these merciless fires in the absence of federal aid," Gov. Perry said. "We continue to be hopeful that President Obama will approve the state's request for an extension of our Major Disaster Declaration, and provide housing and other assistance to help those who have lost so much so quickly in these devastating fires."
Volunteers from Combined Community Action will be at each Bastrop County shelter beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday to take applications for hotel vouchers from those who are currently living in the shelters. These vouchers will allow those whose homes were destroyed to move from makeshift shelters into motels while the state awaits President Obama's approval of an extension of the state's Major Disaster Declaration.
Gov. Perry spoke to President Barack Obama on Wednesday and U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Tuesday to request an extension of the president's partial Major Disaster Declaration to include fires from the last week. The governor also requested the addition of Individual Assistance to the Major Disaster Declaration for all damages from wildfires beginning on or after the Labor Day weekend, and the deployment of federal resources, including Department of Defense assets, to support ongoing wildfire response and recovery efforts in Texas. In cooperation with Gov. Perry and at his request, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst today sent a letter to President Obama with supporting information for these requests.
The Texas Disaster Relief Fund is a registered non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, created to compliment, not duplicate, existing relief resources provided by FEMA and other insurance and non-profit organizations. The fund gives Texans the opportunity to donate money that will go directly to Texas communities whose resources have been strained by disasters. Gov. Perry established the Texas Disaster Relief Fund in September 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita to help individuals and businesses get back on their feet. To donate to the fund, please call 1-866-463-7982.
In the past seven days, Texas Forest Service has responded to 140 fires that have scorched more than 154,300 acres, including new large fires in Red River, Rusk, Camp and Hill counties. More than 1,300 homes and 20 businesses have been destroyed in Bastrop County alone.
Gov. Perry has reissued his disaster proclamation nine times this wildfire season; it was originally issued on Dec. 21, 2010. In addition to the state proclamations in April, the governor sent a letter to President Obama requesting a Major Disaster Declaration, which would have made the state eligible for Direct Federal Assistance and Emergency Protective Measures from the federal government. The Obama Administration denied this request on May 3. Gov. Perry appealed the president's decision on May 26, and received partial approval of relief on July 1. A request to expand the scope of federal relief is still pending in addition to the request made this week.
For more information on preparing for wildfire threats, please visit http://governor.state.tx.us/wildfires.