Black Fire relief funds should be at correct state agency by end of month

By: - July 17, 2023 4:10 am

A hill of trees stand dead and blackened on July 28, 2022 after the Black Fire in the Gila National Forest. (Photo by Megan Gleason / Source NM)

Millions in disaster relief dollars should soon sit with the right New Mexico agency after lawmakers and the governor approved a 2023 budget that sent the money to the wrong place.

The state budget allocated $2 million for “response and restoration” to the Black Fire that devastated parts of the Gila National Forest in 2022. Southern New Mexico communities that include acequia stewards, ranchers and local governments have been trying to find funds to repair expensive fire and flood damage since.

Federal disaster recovery aid for acequias in southern NM depends on officials paying upfront

The Black Fire disaster aid got sent to the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department. That was a mistake, agency spokesperson Sidney Hill told Source NM last month.

He said it should’ve gone to the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration, where the funds will soon be deposited.

The two departments signed a memorandum of agreement on June 30, assigning responsibility to the finance department to get the $2 million to Black Fire victims.

The state agencies have 30 days from the execution of the agreement to transfer the funds over to the Department of Finance and Administration. It has to be done by July 30.

The agencies had until September to get the funds to the right place. Officials committed to getting it done quickly before then.

Once the money is available, it’s still unclear when and how the finance agency will distribute the funds to victims moving forward.

The full agreement can be read here:

Black Fire MOA

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Megan Gleason
Megan Gleason

Megan Gleason is a journalist based in Albuquerque. She recently graduated from the University of New Mexico, where she served as the editor-in-chief of the Daily Lobo. Other work has appeared under the New Mexico Press Association as well as in the Independent, Gallup Sun and Silver City Daily Press.