NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The federal government is beginning to hand out money to victims of the Hermits Peak Calf Canyon wildfire. There’s a new set of rules the claims office has published, outlining and expanding coverage for compensation for those affected by the state’s largest wildfire.

“This marks a very important milestone for our program. It follows a period where we have received some invaluable feedback collected during the public comment phase on the interim final rule,” said Angela Gladwell, director of the Hermits Peak Calf Canyon Claims Office.

FEMA’s Hermits Peak Calf Canyon Claims Office is set to publish its final rule amending the Hermits Peak Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act on Tuesday. The rule reflects much of how the government worked to repay victims of the Cerro Grande Fire in 2000; but now, it has some major changes.

One of the main changes highlighted by Gladwell in a news conference Monday gets rid of a 25 percent compensation cap on reforestation and revegetation costs and allows people to get compensated for the full value of things like trees that were on their property.

“Trees are extremely important, we know, to those impacted by the fire. We have heard that over and over again,” Gladwell explained, “We will soon actively be processing claims for various losses related to privately owned trees.”

The feds are looking to repay victims in the range of $4,500 to more than $9,000 dollars per acre—depending on how badly things were burned. The rule is a milestone in the federal government’s process to compensate northern New Mexico’s landowners.

Other changes include removing the 25% compensation cap on risk reduction practices, allowing compensation for property values ‘that have been substantially and enduringly reduced due to the fire’s impact,’ expanding the compensation period for donations, and expanding compensation for mental health services among other things.

“We also understand that treatment might continue beyond this date, and we’re allowing for claims to be reopened if needed,” Gladwell stated.

The claims office said it’s already given out $37 million to claimants and aims to dish out $50 million by the end of September; $100 million by January 1st, 2024; and $1 billion by January 1st, 2025.

“I think from the very beginning of developing this program, we’ve said we expect this process to take about five or six years,” Gladwell said.

The claims office stated they have also worked with the National Flood Insurance Program to give claimants five years of flood coverage at no cost, and at this point, they’ve gotten more than 2,000 notices of loss, and at least 1,700 of those are considered claimants now.

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