The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) owes FEMA $3.9 billion to cover its response to wildfires caused by company equipment in 2015, 2017 and 2018.
As you know, PG&E is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy and the current plan does not include reimbursing FEMA. So anything given to FEMA will have to come out of the $13.5 billion the firm has promised to use to settle the claims of the victims of those fires. If it can’t get the money from PG&E then FEMA is willing to take its cut from that pot.
The lawyers representing the victims say no. That figure would take up nearly 30% of the settlement.
Bob Fenton is FEMA’s regional manager. Once the statement was issued that the agency was going to go after the $3.9 billion from the victim fund he said FEMA has no interest in taking dollars away from fire victims but it does need to recoup those costs somehow.
“What we are interested in doing is holding PG&E responsible and accountable for the billions of dollars taxpayers provided to assist individuals and communities affected by the wildfires,” he said. “The last thing I want to do is have to go after these individuals that have received claims from the bankruptcy where certain parts of that claim may duplicate funding that we’ve already given them.”
At that point he said it will be easier to go to PG&E directly and deal with the company. That’s up front. If that’s a no-go, then FEMA has a difficult choice.
But is that difficult choice that difficult or that expensive for the victims? Documents from the court shows that just $282 million of the $3.9 billion went directly to the victims. The rest went to other government agencies and to administrative costs.
FEMA’s David Passey acknowledges that and says the agency will not go after the cost of non-financial help like temporary housing. So FEMA might go after even less than the $282 million.
The fallout for the FEMA push extends to Congress where 40 members penned a letter to the agency administrator criticizing the effort to go after the money from the victims if PG&E won’t pay up.
Source link: San Francisco Chronicle