Investments in Disaster Recovery Need to Be Complemented by Pre-Disaster Mitigation

Earlier this month, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report that anticipates climate impacts more severe and sooner than previously thought. The report explains that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the atmosphere will warm by 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels by 2040, at which point the most severe effects of climate change would begin — including food shortages, intensified wildfires and storms, inundated coastlines and coral reef die-off.

The increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters will inevitably be expensive to governments, businesses and property owners. Low-income communities and communities of color are often hit hardest and the last to recover from disaster because they are more likely to live in homes that are less resilient to floods, fires, and wind, and are more likely to live in areas with greater hazard risks. Coordinated disaster relief and recovery efforts by federal agencies are needed more than ever, as is a focus on pre-disaster mitigation (PDM). PDM reduces the costly cycle of ‘damage and repair,’ and makes communities better prepared for the inevitable. The president recently signed the Disaster Recovery Relief Act (DRRA) into law, which creates a set-aside for PDM and could result in over $800 million in federal investments through competitive grants annually. Additionally, the upcoming spending of $15.9 billion in Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds for mitigation activities in areas affected by major disasters in recent years could provide a model for how states and communities can strategically invest in mitigation, collect and share accurate and current risk data, and cultivate a transparent system for stakeholder engagement.

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