Portman and Peters Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Help At-Risk Communities Invest in Disaster Mitigation Projects

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced bipartisan legislation 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.

“In states like Ohio, not every community has the same vulnerabilities or experiences the same level of catastrophic outcomes for the same type of 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 $1 invested into mitigation, communities are saved $6 due to reduced future losses. This bill will help states and communities prioritize and focus these mitigation programs to ensure we maximize the safety and well-being of future disaster victims.”

“Knowing exactly which communities in Michigan and across the nation need assistance to invest in resilient infrastructure will be critical to helping protect lives and livelihoods where disasters strike hardest,” said Senator Peters. “This commonsense, bipartisan legislation will utilize a data driven approach with existing FEMA information to ensure communities that are most vulnerable to extreme weather events receive assistance. This will help drive public and private resources towards these areas to help them fund mitigation projects that will not only improve resiliency, but also save taxpayer dollars in the long run.”

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.