Bipartisan Denham bill would incentivize effective disaster mitigation methods

U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) last week introduced legislation that would help states and communities more effectively plan ahead for natural disasters and reduce disaster recovery costs.

The Supporting Mitigation Activities and Resiliency Targets for Rebuilding Act, or SMART Rebuilding Act, would incentivize best practices by increasing the federal cost share for communities adopting mitigation practices.

“Every year, the federal government spends billions of dollars rebuilding the same structures in the same places with little consideration of the next storm,” said Rep. Denham. “It’s time to take action to save lives and taxpayer money by thinking ahead when we build our communities, instead of typical reactionary government policies.”

H.R. 4455 would also establish a National Public Infrastructure Pre-disaster Mitigation Fund supporting state and local infrastructure improvements. The bill stipulates that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would include building standard implementation and enforcement in its post-disaster work. The bill would amend the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to incorporate Denham’s legislation.

FEMA estimates that for every dollar spent in disaster mitigation, federal taxpayers realize $4 in disaster cost savings, according to Denham’s office.

U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA) joined Denham as an original cosponsor of the bill. “This legislation will improve preparation for the next natural disaster by incentivizing states to better prepare and helping states replace disaster damaged structures with more resilient ones. This will ultimately save federal dollars,” said Capuano.

Private-sector stakeholders commended Denham for his work at a time when the nation has faced devastating damage from wildfires and hurricanes.

Jimi Grande, senior vice president of the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, said, “We applaud Congressman Denham’s leadership in introducing the SMART Rebuilding Act, which takes bold steps to protect homes, save lives and make smarter use of our taxpayer dollars in the face of a rising number of severe disasters.”

BuildStrong Coalition Executive Director Phil Anderson also praised the bill, noting the United States has spent more than $50 billion on disaster recovery in recent months and is expected to spend more than $200 billion more on this year’s storms.