A New Jersey-based nonprofit group is calling on the federal government to establish a permanent funding source to prepare for future natural catastrophes.
The group, called US Strong, says in its new report that an increasing frequency of extreme weather events around the country shows the need for such funding. The group suggests imposing a levy on carbon emissions and carbon pollution as one potential way to help support a new fund. The report, titled “Extreme Weather, Extreme Costs: The True Financial Impact of Hurricane Sandy on New Jersey Homeowners, Businesses and Municipalities,” was released Monday.
US Strong says it has been working with thousands of New Jerseyans calling for the creation of a dedicated federal “Extreme Weather Relief and Protection Fund.” The group says this fund would support emergency response and help communities to prepare for extreme weather.
A dedicated fund, like the Highway Trust Fund, will also ensure that communities get resources quickly after extreme weather disasters — rather than wait for Congress to pass disaster relief legislation, the group argues.
But, the group adds, supporting this fund should not burden working families and businesses with increased property, income, sales and corporate business taxes — nor should the government rely on deficit spending. Instead, “all revenue streams should be considered including putting a financial cost on putting more carbon pollution into the atmosphere that is fueling more extreme weather,” the group suggests.
New Jersey families, businesses and municipalities suffered a huge financial toll from Superstorm Sandy — much larger than previously reported — and estimates for uncovered costs should be expected to rise by the billions, according to US Strong.
The report says the cost of Superstorm Sandy has already exceeded $70 billion, and more than half of that is attributed to New Jersey, the hardest hit state. It says New Jerseyans will have to find a way to pay for an estimated $8 billion to $13 billion in expenses that will not be covered by federal or state assistance. The report also forecasts that the shortfall could rise by billions or even tens of billions of dollars.
“What lies beyond the impersonal and huge Sandy storm cost numbers is the fact that pocketbooks are being emptied, hard-earned savings have been swallowed whole, homes have been lost, small business owners’ dreams have crumbled, and new debt has been incurred. This is not some future prediction. It is now the new reality of extreme weather we all are living with,” said Curtis Fisher, co-author of the report and US Strong’s national campaign director.
“We cannot just talk about the need for emergency relief and storm preparedness. We need to fund it to protect the New Jersey shore and other communities across the country from extreme weather,” Fisher said.
“Things are changing, so we are going to have change,” New Jersey State Senator and Senate Conference Leader Robert Singer was also quoted as saying in the report. “Across the nation, we’re seeing intense storms, more frequent storms, and unfortunately greater catastrophes. There has to be a permanent funding source, so we don’t sit there and wait and say, ‘Does Congress like us this year or not?’ We have to look into how to fund this dedicated fund. We have to look at all avenues.”