A dead tree limb falls onto other blackened trees with charred orange leaves and healthy greenery in the distance on July 28, 2022 in the Gila. (Photo by Megan Gleason / Source NM)
An error sent $2 million dollars in relief aid for Black Fire disaster victims to the wrong state agency, and New Mexico officials say they want to quickly fix this mistake.
State lawmakers approved the allocation in the budget to help victims recover from New Mexico’s second largest wildfire in 2022 as well as flooding that came after the fire in the southern part of the state.
The funds are available starting in July but were sent to the wrong agency.
The dollars ended up at the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, an agency that doesn’t have anything to do with distributing these funds.
The spokesperson for the New Mexico department, Sidney Hill, said his agency plans to transfer the funds over to the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration.
He said officials are preparing a memorandum of understanding that will allow the other state agency to take control of the $2 million after the department receives the money July 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year. He expects his agency to have that letter sent in a timely manner.
“This transfer will happen quickly and efficiently and will not result in any delays in getting funding to the communities,” Hill said via email.
The disaster relief aid must be transferred by September 1.
Henry Valdez, spokesperson for the state department of finance, said this type of fund transfer is “common and straightforward with state agencies so it won’t delay the process.”
Hill said it’ll be up to the state finance agency to distribute the dollars to local communities.
“To expedite the recovery process, various agencies are collaborating closely to ensure prompt and effective allocation of funds towards rebuilding these communities,” he said.
Valdez said different state agencies could potentially handle the relief efforts but that the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration “is presently equipped with the necessary personnel and knowledge to effectively allocate the fire relief funds to the local entities.”
The finance agency oversees other fire relief funds as well. It is responsible for overseeing the distribution of $100 million in state loans to public entities recovering from the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire — the only other wildfire larger than the Black Fire in New Mexico’s history.
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