Emergency managers are in northwest Oklahoma right now assessing the wildfire damage to see if a federal disaster declaration can be made.
But those declarations may be in danger with proposed budget cuts.
Out of all 50 states, Oklahoma has the third most disaster declarations from FEMA behind only Texas and California. Early signs of President Donald Trump's budget, though, show he's proposing to cut FEMA funding by 11 percent.
That will directly impact the Oklahoma Emergency Management. The hit would come at the cost of a grant program that makes up 85 percent of the OEM's operating budget. But as of right now, disaster declarations look to be safe.
Congressman Steve Russell feels they will always be safe.
"My observation is two-fold. One, it's a proposed budget from the executive branch that will need to be examined. And two, you got to look at it like, does this really mean that the U.S. is going to tell Oklahoma if they face a tornado, we're sorry. We're not going to pay for that.
"I've never seen that happen."
The President's proposals also call for a significant increase to funds for border security.
President Trump has proposed cuts to the TSA, Coast Guard and an 11% cut to FEMA. That's a loss of about $361 million for FEMA.
The Washington Post reports Trump's proposed cuts are to likely pay for border security. Funding for ICE would grow about 36% and Customs and Border Protection would increase by 27%.
But if the cuts to FEMA happen, Oklahoma Emergency Management officials said, “Based on the information we have received so far, FEMA budget cuts proposed by the White House would not affect future disaster declarations or disaster funding.”
However, the cuts would impact grant programs that make up 85% of OEM’s operating budget. Those programs include, Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program, the Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG), which OEM receives annually from FEMA, as well as some homeland security grants.
OEM officials go on to say, “Cuts to EMPG could affect OEM’s operating budget as well as local emergency management programs that also receive EMPG funding. Pre-Disaster Mitigation has funded numerous projects in Oklahoma including OEM’s statewide SoonerSafe Safe Room Rebate Program.”
The White House FY 2018 Budget Blueprint proposal is set to be officially released on March 16th.
We asked FEMA for a comment and officials there said, “We don’t have any comments on the budget, as it is pre-decisional.”