Washington State House Democrats


Bill to create a state public infrastructure assistance program on way to Inslee’s desk

OLYMPIA—Rep. Joe Timmons, D-Bellingham, won’t ever forget the devastating floods that ripped through Whatcom County in the fall of 2021. The damage to infrastructure, as well as the uprooting of families and businesses and the loss of life left a lasting impression on him. It also has impacted the kinds of bills he has introduced in the legislature as a freshman lawmaker. 

Communities throughout southwestern Washington have similarly contended for generations with severe flooding in the Chehalis Basin, resulting in widespread devastation to communities and significant financial losses totaling hundreds of millions of dollars.   

This year, Timmons introduced House Bill 2020 with Rep. Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia, to create a public infrastructure assistance program within the state’s emergency management division. The bipartisan bill is one action the legislature is taking to ensure the state is better prepared to support local communities when natural disasters occur. 

“This is an important step to ensure that Washington is equipped to assist local communities rebuild after natural disasters, whether flooding, wildfires, or landslides. Our state should step up so local governments can rebuild critical infrastructure when we don’t qualify for assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA),” said Timmons. 

“I am grateful for the broad, bipartisan support this important measure received this session,” said Abbarno. “As someone who lives in the City of Centralia in the Chehalis Basin, I’ve seen, first-hand, the financial, physical, and emotional damage catastrophic flooding and natural disaster events can cause. House Bill 2020 will provide significant resources to countless families throughout our region during these tragic events, as well as renewed hope and support.” 

“This work builds upon what I worked on last year with House Bill 1452, which established a state emergency medical reserve corps. I am proud to take the experience of Whatcom County and turn it into action that will support Whatcom residents and Washingtonians around the state during natural disasters,” said Timmons.  

The emergency medical reserve corps will operate within the state’s Department of Health and utilize a variety of experts that can assist during public health emergencies, including doctors, veterinarians, and behavioral health counselors. 

HB 2020 passed off the House floor unanimously on Feb. 9, and passed the Senate unanimously earlier today. It now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature before it becomes law.