New law pairs disaster aid funding with incentives to help prevent or minimize future weather disasters such as those in 2017
TAMPA, February 9, 2018 – The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) today commended the United States Congress for coupling disaster aid with tools to help the nation prevent future weather disasters.
The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 includes amendments to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (the Stafford Act) that will reward state investments in resilient building and mitigation strategies.
“In the plainest terms, the U.S. Congress is saying ‘Yes’ to a more resilient America and encouraging state-level action that will reduce future loss of life and property damage during severe weather events,” said Julie Rochman, IBHS CEO and President. “The legislation is an important step toward a future in which fewer American homes and businesses – in whole or in part – end up in landfills due to severe weather. While we have a long way to go, this legislation will help strengthen communities and invest in disaster mitigation with the goal of reducing post-disaster response and recovery needs.
These Stafford Act amendments were strongly advocated by the BuildStrong Coalition (the Coalition), a diverse group of firefighters, emergency responders, insurers, engineers, architects, contractors and manufacturers, as well as consumer organizations, code specialists, and many others committed to building a more resilient America. The Coalition has been working for years to make America’s infrastructure stronger, safer and more durable against extreme weather. IBHS provides technical guidance on resilient construction standards and systems to the Coalition.
The mechanism included in today’s legislation is a Federal Cost Share Reform Incentive. It encourages states and communities to invest in measures that increase readiness for and resilience from major disasters. In return for these investments, the government may increase federal disaster relief aid from 75 percent to as high as 85 percent on a sliding scale. Measures to be considered for the enhanced federal funding include:
- The adoption of a mitigation plan.
- Investments in disaster relief, insurance, and emergency management programs.
- Encouraging the adoption and enforcement of the latest building codes.
- Facilitating participation in the Community Rating System.
- Funding mitigation projects or giving tax incentives to projects that reduce risk.
“We are particularly pleased with the encouragement to adopt and enforce the latest building codes, which once again clearly proved their effectiveness and worth in Florida where damage from Irma could have been much, much worse,” Rochman said. “However, because Florida has one of the nation’s strongest codes and enforcement mechanisms, damage to much of the state was limited to older, weaker structures not built to modern codes.”
Recent federal studies have shown the high value of an investment in mitigation. “It is heartening that Congress recognized in encouraging these investments in resilience, that the nation can save $6 in future disaster costs for every $1 in federal grants invested in mitigation,” Rochman said. “Now we need states and communities to take the mitigation ball, and run with it. Every state and every community can and should take steps to avoid overwhelming damage from future weather disasters.”