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New Study Says Mitigation Pays

Federal programs to protect Americans against extreme weather and other natural disasters save even more money than previously thought, according to a report funded by the same agencies that have proposed cutting many of those programs.
January 17, 2018

Federal programs to protect Americans against extreme weather and other natural disasters save even more money than previously thought, according to a report funded by the same agencies that have proposed cutting many of those programs.

The report, released by the National Institute of Building Sciences, found that every $1 the federal government spends on so-called mitigation projects, such as elevating homes at risk of flooding, improving stormwater management systems or strengthening buildings against earthquakes, reduces future costs by an average of $6. That’s higher than the 4-to-1 savings the institute last estimated in 2005; the increase reflects the growing effects of climate change as well as better data and measurement, according to the group.

Roy Wright, the official in charge of insurance and mitigation for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), said his organization had urged the building institute to “revisit” the 4-to-1 ratio it first calculated in 2005, “to make sure this assertion we’re making about the power of resilience is well-founded.” He said in an interview that the revised figures demonstrate that federal spending on mitigation is “an even more powerful investment” than people knew.

The Trump administration’s first budget request would have cut by half FEMA’s pre-disaster mitigation grants to cities and states. It would have ended HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program, the vehicle Congress uses to deliver large chunks of disaster-recovery money. And it would have eliminated EDA, a division of the Department of Commerce that runs disaster programs. There are indications that the administration has since softened its opposition to some of those programs. Asked if it was fair to conclude that administration’s position on mitigation programs had evolved, FEMA’s Wright responded, “That seems reasonable.”

 

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