WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, convened a hearing with disaster preparedness and response experts to hear how worsening natural disasters, including flooding, severe storms, and wildfires, continue to harm lives and livelihoods in Michigan and across the nation. Peters and the witnesses discussed how lawmakers can work to improve preparedness for and response to increasingly severe natural disasters, and strengthen the resiliency of our nation’s infrastructure to withstand their devastating effects.
The witnesses included Jerry Hancock, Executive Director of the Michigan Stormwater Floodplain Association and Stormwater and Floodplain Programs Coordinator in Ann Arbor, who highlighted how Michigan communities will benefit from a program Peters created and recently secured $500 million in funding for as part of the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill. The funding would be used to help states establish revolving loan programs for local governments to carry out mitigation projects that reduce the risk of shoreline erosion, extreme flooding, and other natural disasters. Peters authored the Safeguarding Tomorrow through Ongoing Risk Mitigation (STORM) Act, which was signed into law earlier this year, to create this new loan program.
“Preparedness is becoming more and more important as we continue to see increasingly severe storms and weather events that create life-threatening situations, and cause serious damage to our communities,” said Peters during his opening statement. “Driven by climate change, these extreme storm, hurricanes, wildfires, and floods, are becoming more frequent, and more destructive every year.”
Peters continued: “As we continue to see worsening natural disasters, and the dire consequences they have on our communities, we must take swift action to upgrade our infrastructure and ensure our roads, bridges, homes, and businesses, are resilient enough to withstand increasingly severe weather events.”
To watch video of Senator Peters’ questions, click here.
Communities across the country continue to face severe natural disasters that take lives, damage small businesses and thousands of homes, and devastate families. In addition to discussing the loan program he created earlier this year, Peters also asked the witnesses how else the federal government can help first responders prepare for future disasters as they continue to worsen from the effects of climate change. Peters also asked the witnesses how the Federal Emergency Management Administration can work to provide a strong and more equitable disaster response for all communities that are affected by disasters. While marginalized communities and communities of color often see severe impacts after a disaster, they also often have more difficulty obtaining recovery assistance from the federal government. The Committee also heard from the witnesses on what needs to be done to better protect the health and safety of our nation’s dedicated emergency responders as they continue to combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic while responding to worsening natural disasters in their regions.
The hearing builds on Peters’ efforts to strengthen the federal response to worsening natural disasters and support first responders as they respond to emergencies around the nation. In addition to creating and securing funding for the loan program created by the STORM Act, Peters authored bipartisan legislation to protect FEMA Reservists from losing their full-time employment when they are called up to assist communities with disaster response has advanced in the Senate.