Representative Mike Michaud has informed by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Assistant Secretary Peter Kovar that the agency has approved a measure to help many of the Lewiston fire victims obtain alternative housing more quickly.
Many of the displaced families had received rental assistance tied to their specific building. In the wake of the fires, HUD engaged with building owners to set up a "rent subsidy pass through," which will allow the victim's rental subsidies to transfer to another building. Michaud, whose office has been working with the city of Lewiston to urge HUD to expedite the process, was informed that it was approved overnight.
"The granting of this assistance is very good news for many of the victims," said Michaud. "I requested that the process be expedited and flexible so that displaced families don't get caught up in bureaucratic hurdles. While fully recovering from these fires is going to be a longer-term struggle, we need to be doing whatever we can right now to help victims get back on their feet. I appreciate HUD's assistance so far, and I will continue to work to ensure that the process goes smoothly for all that were impacted. I'd like to thank the city officials and volunteers who have been working tirelessly to assist the victims."
In addition, Michaud invited Kovar to visit Lewiston so that he could survey the damage and work with the city to exhaust all options available for recovery assistance.
This past week was also National Arson Awareness Week, and Michaud delivered a Congressional Record statement on the issue, highlighting the Lewiston fires. Michaud's also featuring a resource page on his website to help those impacted by the recent fires.
The full text of Michaud's Congressional Record statement:
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to support National Arson Awareness Week, which runs from May 5th-11th this year.
The United States Fire Administration (USFA) has made tremendous strides in educating the public about the dangers of Arson during its annual Arson Awareness Week. This year's theme, "Reducing Residential Arson," is focused on ways for community members to come together and develop plans to combat arson in their neighborhoods. According to USFA, over 14,700 law enforcement agencies report 43,400 arsons every year.
This is an issue that hits home for my constituents in the city of Lewiston, who have endured three large fires during the past week. The fires have destroyed over 79 apartments and left roughly 200 people homeless. Firefighters from Lewiston and the surrounding communities have performed heroically to contain the fires and protect residents from harm. These brave men and women place themselves at enormous risk every day to keep us safe, and I applaud them for their efforts.
USFA is recommending a number of strategies to help communities better protect themselves against arson. Neighborhood cleanups have enabled residents to remove flammable materials and identify possible hazards. Groups have also had success by improving internal and external security for their homes and at abandoned properties. Working together, we can all help make our communities a safer place to live.
Mr. Speaker, please join me again in recognizing National Arson Awareness Week for its role in helping our communities educate themselves about ways to combat arson.