Federal agencies pledge another $110 million in drought aid

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U.S. Western States to Get $110 Million in Drought Aid
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Federal agencies pledged another $110 million in aid Friday to help states struggling with the crippling drought after President Barack Obama talked to leaders from seven western states.

The president met by phone and video link for about an hour with the governors of Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, and Wyoming and with the lieutenant governor of Utah, according to the White House.

The funding announced Friday includes:

- $18 million for a jobs program to help as many as 1,000 Californians who are unemployed because of the drought get temporary jobs doing drought-related work or as part of programs to help make communities more drought-resistant. The administration cited a recent University of California study estimating 18,000 lost jobs in California.

"It also provides a much needed infusion of economic support right back into these communities that need it," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training Portia Wu on a conference call with reporters.

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Federal agencies pledge another $110 million in drought aid
SONOMA, CA - JULY 22: (L-R) Keith Pringle with Friedman's Home Improvemnt, Danielle Baker and Brian Lee with the Sonoma County Water Agency fill buckets with water conservation tools and literature during a 'Drought Drive Up' event on July 22, 2015 in Sonoma, California. As Californians endure a fourth straight year of severe drought, the Sonoma County Water Agency held a 'Drought Drive Up' event where they handed out water conservation literature and water saving tools like low flow showerheads and aerators. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN ANSELMO, CA - JULY 14: A brown lawn is seen in front of a home on July 14, 2015 in San Anselmo, California. California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation to protect residents from local governments that impose fines for residents who let their lawns turn brown in an effort to conserve water. California is in the midst of its fourth year of severe drought. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
KENTFIELD, CA - JULY 14: A sign is posted in the middle of brown lawn on July 14, 2015 in Kentfield, California. California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation to protect residents from local governments that impose fines for residents who let their lawns turn brown in an effort to conserve water. California is in the midst of its fourth year of severe drought. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 14: A brown lawn is seen in front of a home on July 14, 2015 in San Francisco, California. California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation to protect residents from local governments that impose fines for residents who let their lawns turn brown in an effort to conserve water. California is in the midst of its fourth year of severe drought. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
With AFP Story by Veronique DUPONT: US-drought-poverty-agriculture-water-environment Dead plum trees that have been removed from the ground due to the lack of water for irrigation at the drought affected town of Monson, California on June 23, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
With AFP Story by Veronique DUPONT: US-drought-poverty-agriculture-water-environment A dead tomato bush is seen in the vegetable garden of local resident Maria Jimenez at the drought affected town of Monson, California on June 23, 2015. AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Children play on the exposed sandy bottom of Mirror Lake that is normally underwater and used by visitors to photograph reflections of the Half Dome rock monolith at Yosemite National Park in California on June 4, 2015. At first glance the spectacular beauty of the park with its soaring cliffs and picture-postcard valley floor remains unblemished, still enchanting the millions of tourists who flock the landmark every year. But on closer inspection, the drought's effects are clearly visible. AFP PHOTO/MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
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- $30 million to extend a program so farmers who suffer one or two years of exceptionally low production because of the drought do not lose crop insurance.

- $10 million to reduce the threat of wildfires by cleaning up landscapes so they are less prone to fires.

- $6.5 million in grants for water management improvement projects.

- $7 million to address the drought-related needs of water utilities and households.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Environmental Protection Administrator Gina McCarthy, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate, Deputy Interior Secretary Mike Connor and Wu were among those on the call.

Representatives of those agencies said the $110 million in new spending comes on top of $190 million already pledged in short-term help for the states and in addition to other programs aimed at making long-term changes.

California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, said his state has already seen more than half a million acres gone fallow and thousands of job losses.

"This aid will provide new opportunities for farmworkers and rural communities most impacted by the drought and make the state more water-efficient and drought resilient," he said in a statement.

Officials also used the call to promote legislation by congressional Republicans to speed up timber harvests and the removal of underbrush that the U.S. Forest Service deemed necessary, which the Obama administration supports.

The administration has warned of potentially catastrophic wildfires this summer in the Southwest and Northwest, and is forecasting costs of more than $200 million above the budget for federal firefighting.

Forest Service officials say the budgeting system requires them to shift money from fire-prevention efforts to firefighting, exacerbating fire problems.

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