Washington state offers more assistance for wildfire victims
(The Center Square) — More assistance has been made available for families, property owners and businesses affected by recent wildfires in Washington state.
On Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee expanded an earlier emergency proclamation by directing the state Department of Social and Health Services to provide benefits from the agency’s Family Emergency Assistance Program through Sept. 29 to individuals and families without children in the areas of Pend Oreille, Spokane, and Whitman counties. The program can provide emergency food, cash, and utilities assistance to qualifying persons, according to the DSHS website.
The Washington Department of Revenue is also offering help to business and property owners in those areas.
Property owners whose properties were damaged or destroyed by the fires can apply to their County Assessor to reduce the taxable value of the properties. Qualified property owners will have their 2023 property taxes reduced based on the value lost as a result of the fires. The Department of Revenue has offered its assistance to counties with help in changes to property values and the resulting impacts on local levies and property tax bills.
Also, businesses which cannot file and pay their excise tax returns on time should contact Revenue to request a filing extension before the filing deadline. A penalty waiver can also be offered to qualified businesses that were unable to file an extension request before the taxes were due.
“It’s important that the people know there are resources available to them,” Department of Revenue Director Drew Shirk said in a Friday news release. “Our team is here to help our fellow Washingtonians navigate this disaster and get them back on their feet.”
Area businesses can also request:
• An application for credit for damaged timber for forest taxes.
• Rescheduling a planned audit.
• More time to file a business license or registration renewal.
• An extension of its expiring reseller’s permit.
More information about disaster relief resources can be found on the Department of Revenue. Those with questions may also call the agency’s customer service staff at (360) 705-6705.
Statewide this year, wildfires have burned more than 32,000 acres, damaging and destroying homes, businesses, agricultural resources, infrastructure, and other essential community needs.
Two of the most damaging fires both started on the afternoon of Friday, Aug. 18 in Spokane County. Together, the Gray Fire near Medical Lake and the Oregon Road Fire near Elk have burned nearly 21,000 acres, destroyed hundreds of homes and outbuildings, prompted mass evacuations, and claimed two lives. Hundreds of firefighters from numerous agencies from across the state and region have responded with personnel and equipment.
As of Sunday, the Gray Fire was considered 97% contained and evacuation levels were listed at Level 1 “Get ready to leave.” The Oregon Road Fire is considered 88% contained and evacuation levels have been lifted. Fire crews are continuing suppression and mop-up efforts, including mitigating hazardous trees and hot-spot debris.
In eastern Washington’s Whitman County, the Winona Fire scorched over 2,500 acres of dry grass and sage and destroyed about two dozen vehicles and structures, including the Rebel Flat Creek railroad trestle. The Palouse River and Coulee City Railroad uses the 200-foot wooden trestle for its short-line freight rail system in eastern Washington, primarily transporting grain and lentils.