California Earthquake Authority Board Votes to Sponsor Resilient Homes Initiative

The California Earthquake Authority’s governing board has voted to sponsor and support the Resilient Homes Initiative, a bill aimed at helping Californians prepare for earthquakes by restructuring the CEA to strengthen its long-term financial sustainability and increase the number and types of seismic-retrofit grants the authority can offer.

Senate Bill 254 was introduced by state Senate Majority Leader Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, in January.

The legislature created the CEA in 1996 to better prepare Californians against the widespread devastation that rocked the Los Angeles region during the Northridge quake. Since their Brace & Bolt program launched in 2014, the CEA has been able to retrofit over 4,000 homes in Los Angeles County alone.

Senate Bill 254 would make the necessary changes to the CEA’s financial structure to expand mitigation programs.

The Resilient Homes Initiative would enhance CEA’s existing claim-paying capacity by adding a new, lower cost alternative to reinsurance and other existing tools. CEA will in turn make annual payments in exchange for this new capacity, with the funds (estimated to be between $70-$100 million) being devoted to pre-earthquake retrofit and mitigation programs in “High Seismic Risk Zones.”

Those supporting the initiative say it will increase funding to dramatically expand the existing Brace & Bolt program, and develop new programs to help households in high-risk areas.

The bill also empowers the CEA to collect small assessments on insurance premiums on policies covering property and risks in the same “High Seismic Risk Zones” only in the event of an earthquake of unprecedented magnitude and damage.

“A home built prior to 1980 is like a ticking time bomb, waiting to slide off its foundation during a big earthquake that scientists say is inevitable,” CEA CEO Glenn Pomeroy said in a statment. “This bill would increase funding needed to help more Californians retrofit their older homes, and help sustain CEA’s claim-paying capacity through multiple earthquakes. This is a bold and innovative step toward preparedness.”

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