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With billions promised for fire victims, community meeting planned for Monday

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Alice Fordham
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Damage from the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak fire in Mora county

With billions of dollars in assistance set to flow to victims of the huge Calf Canyon/Hermit's Peak fire, which burned swaths of northern New Mexico earlier this year, many people in the affected area have questions about how exactly to apply for help and when it might arrive.

Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández, who advocated strongly for the legislation to compensate her constituents, will hold a community meeting on Monday, Oct. 17 at Mora High School at 5.30pm to answer questions about the next steps.

Source NM reported that lawyers are increasingly offering their services to residents, but Leger Fernández said that it should be possible to apply for help without legal representation. Wildfire survivors in other parts of the country, including California, have warned about lawyers pushing for clients in the wake of a big settlement.

At the end of last month, Congress approved a government spending bill which included $2.5 billion for those affected by the devastating fire, which began as two planned burns by the Forest Service. Hundreds of structures were destroyed in the blaze, and those affected have called for compensation for loss of grazing land, logging and for destruction caused by flooding on burn scars.

To develop the process to distribute the money, FEMA now says it is working alongside local partners and will keep people informed. Before the new legislation, many residents complained that the emergency agency was slow to help people who lacked documentation, that a cap of about $40,000 for lost homes was too low. Under the new law, there should be fewer such restrictions

Alice Fordham joined the news team in 2022 after a career as an international correspondent, reporting for NPR from the Middle East and later Latin America and Europe. She also worked as a podcast producer for The Economist among other outlets, and tries to meld a love of sound and storytelling with solid reporting on the community. She grew up in the U.K. and has a small jar of Marmite in her kitchen for emergencies.
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