Phoenix Mayor Urging Biden Administration To Declare Arizona Heat A Federal Emergency

Phoenix Mayor Urging Biden Administration To Declare Arizona Heat A Federal Emergency

By Corinne Murdock |

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego is urging the Biden administration to declare Arizona’s heat a federal emergency in an effort to unlock more federal funding and resources.

Gallego disclosed this effort during her city of the state address on Wednesday, “The Future of Phoenix.” Gallego called on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to include “extreme heat” into its national emergency declarations categorization, which would qualify Arizona summers as a disaster

“We need to meet the moment to support our most vulnerable. We need national action,” said Gallego. “I’m calling on FEMA to revise their declared disasters list to include extreme heat. Resources from pop-up shelters, to additional outreach to our vulnerable residents could help us successfully navigate unforgiving summers.”

If Phoenix is successful in its petition, federal assistance would likely come through something like a funding pathway established by the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018. That measure allowed six percent of federal disaster grants’ annual aggregate amount to go to pre-disaster hazard mitigation. 

Phoenix has already rolled out projects designed to mitigate heat-related illnesses and deaths, such as “cool corridors,” areas with manufactured shade and drinking water access,” and “cool pavement,” which reflects rather than absorbs sunlight to keep the ground and air cool.

Gallego also urged state lawmakers to support Proposition 400, a county regional transportation tax to expand infrastructure. Gallego also urged voter approval of a general obligation bond: $500 million for public developments like parks and fire stations. Gallego said that the bond funding would allow the establishment of semiconductor and medical device development centers. 

Gallego explained that the city’s main focuses included water conservation and restoration; federal funding to support infrastructure development, specifically public transit expansion; and investment into semiconductor facilities.

Gallego insisted that the city was handling the homeless crisis well, despite what the Maricopa County Superior Court said in a preliminary injunction handed down last month. 

The mayor insisted that homelessness isn’t unique to Phoenix, but that Phoenix is unique in that it has a better approach for managing its homeless. Gallego talked at length about the city’s affordable housing initiatives, a focal point of their “housing first” approach that, in part, earned them the unfavorable court ruling last month.

“Homelessness is not unique to Phoenix,” said Gallego. “What is unique to Phoenix is that our city is putting every solution on the table to lift people out of homelessness.” 

Gallego said it was her desire to create a city where her son would choose to live as an adult. 

“Raising a six-year-old and running a city have more in common than you might expect,” said Gallego. 

Common themes of Gallego’s address were sustainability and equity efforts.

Gallego said that Phoenix surpassed its “zero waste” goal when it hosted the Super Bowl earlier this year. Gallego highlighted technology advancements in travel, such as Apple Watch check-ins at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport and driverless electric cars roaming the downtown. 

Gallego highlighted the city’s free tuition program, “Route to Relief,” similar to what later launched last September — both using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.

Gallego said that they would develop 50,000 affordable housing units, noting that they’ve already built or preserved 26,000 units. The mayor cited “critical, systemic inequities” as the root of housing issues. The city has also established a community land trust program with NewTown. 

The mayor also cited their “eco-friendly” shipping containers turned into affordable housing. The city will also establish a housing complex of shipping container housing units. Gallego said that the city plans to issue 7,000 housing vouchers and managing over 5,000 housing units.

Phoenix also invested $10 million into mental health treatment for the underinsured and uninsured. In the first seven months of a newly launched pilot, behavioral health engagement teams to address the opioid crisis contacted 200 individuals and connected 57 individuals.

Gallego then said that stronger law enforcement and progressive ideals weren’t mutually exclusive. 

“To those who say it is not possible: we can and will be both progressive and practical on policing,” said Gallego.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to