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Swalwell & Gonzalez-Colon Introduce Bill to Help Communities Better Prepare for Natural Disasters

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Reps. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (R-PR) introduced a bipartisan bill to help communities better prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural disasters.

“The East Bay is a great place to live, but we’re prone to certain risks such as earthquakes, wildfires and drought,” said Rep. Swalwell. “Climate change will only intensify the effects of these natural disasters which is why we must proactively invest in community resilience before disaster strikes. The Preventing Our Next Natural Disaster Act would provide funding to communities that are most vulnerable to natural disasters to help them better prepare for these increasing threats.”

The Preventing Our Next Natural Disaster Act would make several changes to FEMA’s pre-disaster mitigation grant program by increasing funding, ensuring that communities who need it most—those with high hazard risk and environmental justice communities—get access to this funding, and improving data collection to better track and manage resources before and after natural disasters.

“Puerto Rico’s history with natural disasters has proven that pre-disaster mitigation is crucial to reduce fatalities and better prepare our communities after a major disaster. I’m proud to join my colleague Rep. Swalwell in introducing the Preventing Our Next Natural Disaster Act to ensure that FEMA receives the necessary funds to assist more efficiently people affected by disasters through programs like their pre-disaster mitigation grant program,” said Rep. González-Colón. “This legislation would also provide for a more efficient use of funds by allowing FEMA to improve its data collection and track funding and resources during a disaster. Combined these are an important step to provide faster and more transparent access to funds to local governments and entities, and help accelerate the reconstruction process.”

“With climate change worsening the risks of disasters including flooding, wildfires, heatwaves and drought, the Preventing our Next Natural Disaster Act is very much needed,” said Shana Udvardy, Climate Resilience Analyst with The Union of Concerned Scientists. “The bill brings numerous advancements to FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities grant program, such as allocating more funding for measures to reduce risks ahead of disasters, targeting resources to those facing disproportionate impacts from climate change and requiring that FEMA improve upon how it distributes and tracks disaster assistance.”

The bill is endorsed by the Union of Concerned Scientists, Habitat for Humanity, League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the National Wildlife Federation.

The Preventing Our Next Natural Disaster Act would:

  • Increase FEMA’s set aside for pre-disaster mitigation assistance from 6% to 15%.
  • Provide for a 2% set-aside for capacity building assistance.
  • Require FEMA to prioritize applicants with the highest hazard risk in coordination with FEMA’s National Risk Index, environmental justice communities, and low-income communities.
  • Create a new community outreach assistance program to increase the number of successful grant applicants from communities with high hazard risk, environmental justice communities, and low-income communities.
  • Encourage FEMA to incorporate climate change into the National Risk Index and its cost-benefit analysis as well as to ensure that grant funding is used to support projects that are designed to withstand future flooding.
  • Require FEMA within three years to establish a central federal database, in coordination with HUD, EPA, SBA, and USACE, to consolidate data collected by all local, state, and federal agencies involved in disaster response.
  • Require FEMA to collect and post demographic data on the impact of natural disaster and federal recovery efforts to better allocate and track resources and to analyze disaster spending to see what could have been saved by improved pre-disaster mitigation.

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