Coalition Details Flaws In Current Approach And Calls For Changes That Will Protect Lives And Property, Reduce The Costs Of Recovery And Save Taxpayers Money
WASHINGTON – In a new report today, SmarterSafer, a national coalition of taxpayer advocates, environmental groups, insurers and mitigation and housing organizations, called for major reforms of the federal government’s natural disaster policies to refocus on mitigation. The report, “Bracing for the Storm,” recommends a series of policy reforms to address the rising cost of natural disasters and reduce their financial impact. The report comes on the heels of a new review of federal disaster policies recently launched by the US House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
“Current federal disaster policies are putting millions of Americans at risk by reacting after a storm passes, rather than giving citizens and communities the incentives and tools they need to prepare before it strikes,” said Vice-President of Taxpayers for Common Sense Steve Ellis. “As a result, the nation’s taxpayers are staring at a growing price tag with each new disaster. It is past time to reform national disaster policies and adopt a mitigation strategy that truly prepares the country for the costly disasters that loom ahead. Budgeting for responsible solutions and using disaster relief wisely to ‘pre-spond’ to inevitable future disasters will reduce taxpayer exposure and sticker shock when tragedy strikes. Simply relying on Uncle Sam to open his wallet time and again is not sustainable.”
“The current federal approach does not incentivize state and local governments, as well as Americans living in high-risk areas, to prepare ahead of time for natural disasters, because they know the federal government will step in afterward and foot the bill for recovery efforts,” said Joshua Saks, Legislative Director of the National Wildlife Federation. “This ups the risks for both properties and fragile natural ecosystems in the path of harm. The reforms we’re recommending today will save taxpayers money and better protect the environment by tapping into green infrastructure that can blunt the impact of storms and floods.”
The report examines natural disaster trends over the past 40 years, demonstrating that the severity of disasters and their costs are on the rise. It argues that existing policies are largely to blame for these rising costs while failing to reduce the toll of natural disasters in the future. The report lays out a number policy reforms, including:
- Incentivizing mitigation and local responsibility by better aligning the federal share of disaster spending to a community’s level of preparedness and mitigation efforts while focusing federal policy on pre disaster mitigation including natural infrastructure before disaster strikes;
- Moving the National Flood Insurance Program to risk-based rates over time based on accurate flood maps, providing subsidies only to those who cannot afford their insurance premiums, and encouraging mitigation by expanding the Community Rating System;
- Establishing a central, high-level federal office to better coordinate emergency response and set clear roles for federal, state and local governments and communities.
See the full report here.
SmarterSafer.org is a national coalition comprised of a diverse chorus of voices united in favor of environmentally responsible and fiscally sound approaches to natural catastrophe policy that promote public safety. SmarterSafer believes the federal government has a role in encouraging and helping homeowners undertake mitigation efforts to safeguard their homes against natural disasters. At the same time, the coalition opposes measures that put people’s lives at risk at the expense of taxpayers, including subsidizing artificially low rates for homeowners’ insurance policies that encourage construction in environmentally sensitive and unsafe areas. The coalition is working to ensure Congress does not incentivize people to live in harm’s way in places prone to hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters.