Governor Abbott Requests SBA Disaster Declarations For Panhandle Wildfires

March 11, 2024 | Austin, Texas | Press Release

Governor Greg Abbott today announced that he requested disaster declarations from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for Texas communities affected by wildfires that began on February 26. If approved, these SBA declarations would make federal assistance available in the form of disaster loans for Carson, Hemphill, and Hutchinson counties and their contiguous counties.

“SBA assistance will be a critical step for Texans impacted by wildfires in the Panhandle toward recovering and rebuilding their communities," said Governor Abbott. "An approved SBA disaster declaration will give Texans access to crucial loans they need as they navigate the aftermath of these wildfires. I thank the Texas Division of Emergency Management for working with local partners to ensure that Texans in the Panhandle meet the eligibility requirements for additional financial assistance. Working together, we will rebuild and help our fellow Texans come back even stronger."

If the state’s request is approved, the SBA would provide low-interest loans through its disaster programs to qualifying Texans whose homes and businesses sustained damage during the Panhandle wildfires.

Local, state, and federal officials conducted an analysis of damage sustained in impacted communities, which verifies that Carson, Hemphill, and Hutchinson counties meet the federally-required thresholds for SBA assistance. Officials also reviewed disaster damage information self-reported by Texans through Individual State of Texas Assessment Tool (iSTAT) surveys.

Governor Abbott continues to take action to provide all available resources to help support local communities and protect Texans from these devastating wildfires, including:

  • Granting a waiver for the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts to assist with fueling capabilities amid the wildfire response
  • Requesting joint preliminary damage assessments with local, state, and federal officials in impacted communities.
  • Holding a briefing with lead state response agencies as well as local partners in Canadian to discuss and provide an update on the state’s continued response efforts.
  • Issuing a disaster declaration for 60 Texas counties in response to widespread wildfire activity. Additional counties may be added as conditions warrant.
  • Holding a briefing with state and local officials in Borger and providing an update on the state’s ongoing response to wildfires impacting the state. 
  • Granting waivers for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV), and Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to support a swift state response in support of impacted Texans. 
  • Directing TDEM to deploy additional state emergency response resources and raise the readiness level of the State Emergency Operations Center to support the priority needs of communities facing impacts from these wildfires. 
  • Receiving approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for a Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) request for the Smokehouse Creek Fire and Windy Deuce Fire, meaning that Texas will be eligible for 75% reimbursement from the federal government for costs associated with fighting those fires