WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bipartisan bill by U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), the top Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Ron Johnson (R-WI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and James Lankford (R-OK) to reduce the risks to communities of natural disasters, such as flooding, rising water levels and shoreline erosion has been signed into law. The new law, which was led in the House by U.S. Representative Angie Craig (D-MN-02), will provide support for local communities facing increasing number of natural disasters due to climate change that have put homes, property, and communities at risk, and caused millions of dollars in damages.
Communities in Michigan, Minnesota and across the country are facing serious flooding and high water level challenges that have destroyed homes and beaches and have even forced residents to relocate. The Safeguarding Tomorrow through Ongoing Risk Mitigation (STORM) Act establishes loans that local governments could access to help mitigate the impact of natural disasters in a more cost-effective way. Studies have shown that resilience and mitigation spending saves taxpayers more than $6 for every dollar invested.
“Climate change and high water levels on the Great Lakes are causing serious damage to our shorelines and harming the livelihoods and property of too many Michiganders. Providing our Michigan’s coastal communities with loans so they can build back resiliently will help ensure that our coastlines in Michigan remain safe and pristine,” said Senator Peters. “I am thrilled this bipartisan bill has been signed into law and look forward to continuing my work to help mitigate the effects of this naturally occurring damage.”
“Current hazard mitigation funds, such as those provided through the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program authorized under the Disaster Recovery Reform Act, are made available to communities only after disasters strike,” said Senator Johnson. “These programs that fund hazard mitigation projects are critical, but we also need to focus on building resiliency in communities before they happen. Studies have shown that for every $1 spent on hazard mitigation, $6 is saved in the response and recovery process. This bill will help address and fund projects before disasters strike, saving taxpayer money and decreasing future loss of life and property.”
I have seen firsthand how record high Great Lakes water levels have hurt coastal communities. This is the type of investment local officials and residents need and it is great news that help is on the way,” said Senator Stabenow.
“I want to thank President Trump for signing the STORM Act into law so Oklahomans and people all across our nation can proactively prepare for future disasters in a way that protects lives and taxpayer dollars,” said Senator Lankford.
“In recent years, cities and towns in the Second District have experienced some of the most devastating flood seasons in recent memory – threatening Minnesotans’ homes, doing severe damage to public property and costing our local communities millions of dollars in recovery efforts,” said Rep. Craig. “I am incredibly proud that our bill has been signed into law by the President, my third of this session. We must now ensure this program is fully funded so we can ensure cities like Red Wing, Jordan and Hastings can invest in resilient infrastructure that will not only protect their communities, but also save countless taxpayer dollars in the years to come.”
“The President’s signature on the STORM Act represents an important bipartisan victory that will benefit our environment and our economy,” said Chuck Chaitovitz, vice president, environmental affairs and sustainability at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “The Chamber applauds the bill’s primary sponsors, Sens. Johnson and Peters and Reps. Craig and Davis. The investments in predisaster mitigation projects resulting from this legislation will reduce risks from extreme weather and other disasters for companies and communities across our nation.”
The STORM Act will allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to fund and help states establish revolving loan funds that could be used by local governments to carry out mitigation projects that reduce natural disaster risk, including shoreline erosion and rising water levels. Unlike existing FEMA grants, these low-interest loans would allow local governments to invest in resiliency and mitigation projects that help reduce loss of life and property, the cost of insurance, and disaster recovery payments. These loans would reach communities more quickly than FEMA’s traditional grants and provide local communities with capital necessary to invest in more resilient infrastructure.
High water levels intensify the impacts of high winds and contribute to shoreline erosion. Along the Great Lakes, rising water levels have already flooded campgrounds and streets, caused boating problems due to submerged structures, and destroyed several beaches and homes. These disasters often cause long-term economic, social, and environmental effects for states and communities, including deaths, injuries, property destruction, and an increased burden on taxpayers. Currently FEMA programs are unable to provide assistance for projects related to sustained high water levels and long-term shoreline erosion. This bill would ensure that communities facing these hazards are eligible for loans to fund such mitigation projects.