Proposed bill would build fund to help communities recover from natural disasters

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SANTA FE, N.M. – After the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire – the largest wildfire in state history – decimated parts of northern New Mexico last summer, the state Legislature is now taking steps to help communities as they deal with a growing numbers of natural disasters.

They aim to create what they are calling a public health and climate resiliency fund. The new Senate Bill 5 went in front of its first legislative committee Monday. 

The author of SB5, Sen. Elizabeth Stefanics, sat in front of the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee to answer questions about how her bill will help New Mexican communities prepare for and respond to natural disasters.

“We have had several climate events in our state from wildfires, to floods, droughts, to contaminated water, to issues that have really confounded, and these communities who do not prepare or plan for,” said Stefanics.  

This bill will create a $1.1 million fund that the Department of Health can use to give grants to New Mexico communities up to $250,000 at a time. 

These communities will then use those grants to assess how they can recover from natural disasters, like the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire.

But the money is meant for more than just recovery, these funds will also help communities put together a plan of how they will respond to future disasters

After much discussion, the bill passed the committee 7-2.

The next step for this bill is to go through the Senate Finance Committee before it is brought to the floor.