The National Conference of State Legislatures’ (NCSL) Public Private Partnership on Disaster Mitigation and Recovery published a series of policy recommendations this month. The partnership, of which ASCE belongs, was convened in response to the devastating 2017 disaster season and is comprised of state legislators, staff, and private sector partners. The report, “Natural Disaster State Policy Recommendations,” echoes many of the solutions to raise the grades included in the 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure.
First, the NCSL partnership makes recommendations related to funding. The group urges better tracking of disaster spending to identify cost-saving opportunities, inefficiencies, and to generally be better stewards of public funds. NCSL also encourages legislatures to consider innovative mechanisms for funding disaster response and recovery, including creating rainy day funds, as well as creating environmental impact bonds and tax credits to incentivize disaster planning.
The bulk of the NCSL Public Private Partnership on Disaster Mitigation and Recovery report is focused state disaster policy reform. Specifically, the report recommends an emphasis at the state level on mitigation and infrastructure resilience. By considering policies that strengthen building codes and standards, NCSL underscores that money can be saved, citing a National Institute of Building Sciences study that found that regular adoption of building codes provides an $11 benefit for every $1 invested. ASCE is identified as a source of national, consensus-based standards that account for future risk throughout the design life of structures. The NCSL report also comments on the importance of embracing intentional land-use policies that prevent building in high-risk areas and adopting mitigation measures like creating a statewide disaster resilience plan.
While the report is mostly focused on state funding and policy solutions, NCSL also has recommendations for the federal government. Specifically, the partnership asks that Congress expediate supplemental disaster aid packages as quickly as possible, as well as address the financial solvency of the National Flood Insurance Program, codify CDBG-DR grants, and enact legislation to consolidate disaster programs at FEMA, HUD, and in other locations.
The report ends with suggestions for best practices on interstate mutual aid and private sector and non-profit solutions. The recommendations are timely, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found the U.S. has averaged almost 12 “billion-dollar” disasters each year over the past 10 years. With damages averaging about $106 billion annually, identifying cost-saving and life-saving initiatives and enacting them into state policy is urgent.
To read the full report, click here.