House Subcommittee Adopts Disaster Relief Reform

Article excerpt

The House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment has approved legislation which for the first time authorizes use of federal funds for "predisaster" mitigation in addition to post disaster recovery. H.R. 3869 also calls for state predisaster mitigation plans and a process which involves county and city governments. The subcommittee's May 20 action is subject to consideration by the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the full House.

The House action is in part a response to a proposal by the Senate VA-HUD-independent agencies appropriations subcommittee last year to eliminate eligibility for disaster aid for state and local public park and recreation facilities which had any form of revenue development.

"We have the opportunity to save lives and save the taxpayers some money," observed U.S. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), subcommittee chair.

"There is a popular saying, 'Nature always bats last'," Boehlert said. "We can't control nature. There will always be floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes. Unfortunately, the costs of these inevitable events are becoming increasingly intolerable. In the last five years alone, over 750 people have been killed by natural disasters in the United States, and that is without a major earthquake or hurricane. Many lives can be saved if we prepare now for the disasters that we know will occur later," Boehlert observed.

Over the past five years, annual state spending for mitigation measures has increased 440 percent to an average of $16 million per state, according to the subcommittee.

The National League of Cities and National Association of Counties said the proposed strategy "would help all levels of government move forward in partnership to permanently change the way we deal with disaster risks and spiraling disaster costs which fall on federal, state, and local governments. …

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