WASHINGTON, D.C. – Bipartisan legislation authored by U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, 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 – has been signed into law. The law will 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 extreme weather events continue to cause billions of dollars in damages that taxpayers must cover, the senators’ law will help at-risk communities make important investments to safeguard against natural disasters.
“Identifying areas in Michigan and across the country that are most affected by natural disasters will help drive public and private investment toward these communities so they can fund infrastructure projects that can withstand floods and severe storms,” said Senator Peters. “This new law will help make sure that data and information that is gathered by FEMA is being used to ensure communities that are most vulnerable to extreme weather events receive assistance.”
“I’m proud this bipartisan legislation has been signed into law because not every community in Ohio has the same vulnerabilities or experiences the same level of catastrophic outcomes even when impacted by the same 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 dollar invested into mitigation, communities are saved six dollars due to reduced future losses. This law will help Ohio and communities across the country prioritize and focus these mitigation programs to ensure we maximize the safety and well-being of anyone affected by disasters.”
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 amends 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 law 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 law allows the President to provide community disaster resilience zones with increased federal resources to upgrade their infrastructure to withstand natural disasters.