As thousands of Americans work to prepare their homes and businesses for the start of hurricane season on June 1, why isn’t Congress taking steps to get its own house in order?
Members of Congress can’t stop hurricanes or other natural disasters, but they can stop expecting a pat on the back for simply spending money afterward to rebuild a community that will be just as vulnerable to the next storm. Instead of spending tens of billions of dollars to rebuild after a hurricane only to see the same damage from the next, members of Congress have an opportunity to enact proposed legislation that would make a difference in reducing losses and the need for disaster aid, and most importantly help save lives.
The costs of natural disasters have skyrocketed in recent years. Since 1983 the U.S. has spent nearly $1 trillion on disaster recovery and rebuilding, but more than 10 percent of that, $137 billion, was spent in just the past four years. Studies have shown that disaster mitigation can significantly reduce losses, saving $4 in losses for every $1 spent on mitigation by the government, but federal spending on mitigation programs between 2011 and 2013 was just $22 million.
The National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC) supports these legislative solutions, which are currently awaiting action on Capitol Hill:
- H.R. 1748, The Safe Building Code Incentive Act – Introduced by Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., Albio Sires, D-N.J., and Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., the Safe Building Code Incentive Act would create an incentive for states to adopt and enforce model building codes statewide by rewarding those that qualify with increased grants from FEMA in the aftermath of a storm.
- H.R. 1471, the FEMA Disaster Assistance Reform Act of 2015 – A provision included in legislation allowing for continued operations of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, introduced by Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., with House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., ranking member Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., would mandate a comprehensive study of disaster costs and losses and provide recommendations on how the federal government can reduce its exposure through pre-disaster mitigation.
- H.R. 2230, the Disaster Savings Accounts Act of 2015 – This bill, introduced by Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., would establish a new tax-preferred savings account for the purpose of fortifying residential property in preparation for an impending natural disaster and, in the aftermath, for rebuilding and damage expenses. Homeowners could contribute up to $5,000 each year in pre-tax dollars for qualified expenses, with any balance rolling over at the end of each year.
These simple, bipartisan measures will provide real benefits in helping consumers understand how they can better prepare for natural disasters, protect their homes, and minimize losses. Congress needs to do its part, too.
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