SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — After first rejecting California’s request for disaster relief for cleaning up wildfires, the Trump administration has now reversed course and approved that application.
The move helps California rebuild infrastructure for six wildfires that wreaked havoc across the Golden State.
Several state lawmakers, including House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and Governor Gavin Newsom, say they spoke with President Donald Trump in order to get him to change his mind.
It’s still unclear why the federal aid was denied in the first place and if you ask either side of the aisle, it was for different reasons.
“Each FEMA declaration has to reach a certain threshold based on that criteria of that state. So, I think ours was getting to a wobbler stage where maybe it would, maybe it wouldn’t meet that threshold,” said Republican Congressman Doug LaMalfa.
LaMalfa represents California’s 1st Congressional District, where several of the fires were. He said he always knew there was a possibility the Federal Emergency Management Agency would reject the request.
After it was denied, he said he and his fellow Republican lawmakers were quick to reach back out to the White House.
“So, all of us working together, we were able to get through to the White House. It’s good to have good contacts in the White House and a good relationship with them because they listened to us on this,” LaMalfa told FOX40.
But Democratic Congressman John Garamendi, who represents California’s 3rd Congressional District, said the rejection did not come from FEMA but from the White House.
“The White House is really in a state of confusion,” Garamendi said. “The pandemic has reached deep into the White House. Some say there’s more than 30 key members of the White House that are either infected or quarantined.”
Garamendi said it was a bipartisan effort to get the president to change that decision, including a phone call from Newsom, a Democrat.
“So, really the total California delegation, Democrats and Republicans, said, ‘Oh no, don’t do that. Don’t do that, Mr. President,’” Garamendi said.
Garamendi said without that money, the state, county and local governments would have had to foot much of the bill.
“The state government is what, $16 to $20 billion hole in the state budget because of the downturn in the economy and the revenues. Local counties and fire districts, exactly the same situation,” Garamendi explained.
But LaMalfa says the reverse decision shows the president cares about California.
“He pays attention to us here in Northern California, even though the politics sometimes doesn’t sound very helpful between Sacramento and Washington,” LaMalfa said. “I’m grateful for that attention and, indeed, this declaration.”
The president also recently tweeted, “California is going to hell. Vote Trump!”
President Trump is expected to visit Southern California this weekend, stopping at a private fundraiser in Orange County.
Meanwhile, Governor Newsom said he spoke with the president Friday and that he’s grateful for his quick response in approving the aid.