Biden To Reallocate $10b of FEMA Money for Climate Adaptation

by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

The Biden administration is planning to swiftly reallocate $10 billion in the budget of the Federal Emergency Agency’s (FEMA) in order to build anti-disaster infrastructure. The move would be the largest grant program of its kind and would be used to fund preventative measures against climate change like seawalls, elevated housing, relocation programs, and more. 

Why This Matters: The move offers further evidence that the Biden administration is following through on its climate promises, and intends to continue on this path. 2020 was a record-breaking year for wildfires and hurricanes which further decimated state and city budgets already stretched thin by pandemic response. These places need more help both recovering from repeated disasters and preparing for the next ones. This reallocation would circumvent Congress and happen entirely within FEMA, allowing preventative projects to begin post-haste.

Climate Adaptation: The move also represents growth in the U.S.’s climate adaptation efforts. Reducing our carbon footprint and limiting temperature growth won’t happen immediately, and in the meantime, the South and East coasts will continue to face devastating hurricane seasons while the West faces intensifying atmospheric rivers and wildfires. Experts say the best way to keep our head above water long enough to reach net-zero emissions is to prevent damage before it happens.

Climate adaptation centers on building infrastructure that mitigates the damage caused by climate change, and the U.S. is sorely lacking. In some parts of the country, housing and infrastructure are still being built on flood-prone land, and states and cities are making investments in projects that could be flooded or burned in the coming years.

 

COVID-19 and FEMA: FEMA has taken on a large role in fighting COVID-19 and has a budget to do so. To reallocate the full $10 billion, the Biden administration’s plan would make it easier for the agency to pull funds from that budget. Some have expressed concern that the move would take away from the battle against the pandemic, but experts say that the money budgeted for Coronavirus relief will still be available for its original purpose. Additionally, research has shown that climate change has worsened the pandemic by creating compounded health threats in vulnerable communities. By fighting climate change, we can also fight COVID and future pandemics.

Money, Money, Money: Disaster relief spending has skyrocketed since 2017 and provided billions of dollars toward everything from hurricane damage to volcanic explosions. Many taxpayers have felt that these funds were poorly spent. But now, advocates are excited about potential savings.

This action restores a forward-looking policy that will help ensure that taxpayer dollars aren’t washed away by the next flood,” said Forbes Tompkins of the Pew Charitable Trusts. Research found that reallocating funds for disaster mitigation and prevention would pay for itself as every dollar FEMA spends on preventative measures, the government saves $6 on disaster relief.

 

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