WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate has passed bipartisan legislation authored by U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, to make permanent the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Risk Index (NRI) – an online tool that utilizes data to identify communities that are most vulnerable to natural disasters. The bill would also require FEMA to use data from the NRI to establish community disaster resilience zones (CDRZs) to designate the communities across the nation that are most in need of mitigation projects – and help them access federal funding and support to plan for mitigation and resilience projects. As damage from extreme weather events continues to cause millions of dollars in damages that taxpayers must cover, the senators’ legislation will help at-risk communities make important investments that will limit the damage caused by natural disasters. The legislation now heads to the House of Representatives.
“Identifying which areas in Michigan and across the country are most affected by disasters will help drive private and public sector investments toward those communities so they can build resilient infrastructure that can withstand extreme flooding, storms, wildfires and other disasters,” said Senator Peters. “This commonsense, bipartisan legislation – which has now passed the Senate – will help ensure there is a strategic and data-driven approach to our nation’s response to extreme weather events and other emergencies.”
“I’m pleased this bipartisan legislation has passed the Senate because not every community in Ohio has the same vulnerabilities or experiences the same level of catastrophic outcomes even when impacted by the same disaster,” said Senator Portman. “While natural disasters can be highly unpredictable, FEMA has risk index tools to help us know where we should prioritize our disaster mitigation funding. Research has found that for every dollar invested into mitigation, communities are saved six dollars due to reduced future losses. This bill will help Ohio and communities across the country prioritize and focus these mitigation programs to ensure we maximize the safety and well-being of anyone affected by disasters.”
Small, impoverished, rural and historically disadvantaged communities continue to face severe consequences from natural disasters – including loss of life and significant financial damage. Studies have shown that resilience and mitigation spending saves taxpayers an average of $6 for every $1 invested. By making permanent and utilizing data from the NRI – which factors in expected annual losses, social vulnerability and community resilience – the senators’ legislation would help allocate resources so at-risk communities can develop FEMA-approved hazard mitigation projects.
The Community Disaster Resilience Zones Act would amend the Stafford Act to make permanent the National Risk Index and utilize its data to identify and designate community disaster resilience zone communities that are the most at risk to natural hazards. This will allow FEMA to identify what communities are most in need of assistance for mitigation projects. Community disaster resilience zone designations will be made public so other federal departments and stakeholders interested in protecting communities from natural disasters can understand what areas are most in need of investments. The bill requires FEMA to create an optional review process for potential mitigation projects within a community disaster resilience zone to help direct private investors to approved, meaningful mitigation projects. The legislation would also allow the President to provide community disaster resilience zones with increased federal resources to upgrade their infrastructure to withstand natural disasters.