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Disaster-Hit States to Compete for $1B

Thursday, June 26, 2014

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The federal government is committing nearly $1 billion to help communities stricken by natural disasters develop ways to rebuild more resiliently.

The Natural Disaster Resilience Competition invites communities damaged by natural disasters to compete for funds to rebuild and increase their resilience to future disasters.

President Obama announced the competition June 15 in an address at the University of California at Irvine.

Funding for the competition comes from the flexible federal grants that remain from the Hurricane Sandy relief package Congress passed last year. New York and New Jersey lawmakers have opposed using the Sandy aid for the new competition, saying those funds should be reserved for those victims.

President Barack Obama
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

President Obama says the country must rebuild stronger to address the threats associated with climate change.

The national competition will support innovative resilience projects at the local level while encouraging communities to adopt policy changes and activities that plan for the impacts of extreme weather and climate change, according to a news release from the White House.

"Heat waves, hurricanes, and severe storms have all become more frequent and more intense," the White House said. "And sea level rise is causing some communities to flood at high tides and threatening homes and critical infrastructure."

National Competition Summary

Any state or local government that experienced a Presidentially-declared major disaster in 2011, 2012 and 2013 is eligible for about $820 million through the competition.

Vilonia Arkansas
Christopher Mardof / FEMA

Communities like Vilonia, AR, are eligible to compete for funding in the competition. A tornado ripped through Vilonia on April 27, destroying much in its path, including the town's $13 million Intermediate School that was scheduled to open in July.

In addition, about $180 million will be available to states in the Hurricane Sandy-affected region to help address critical housing needs.

Successful applicants will show how their proposed action relates to the disaster from which they are recovering, the release said.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will ensure that geographic diversity is considered in selecting competition winners.

Critics of Competition

Using Hurricane Sandy rebuilding funds for the new competition has sparked concern by New York and New Jersey lawmakers.

In May, U.S. Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) sent a letter to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan insisting that federal aid designated for Sandy victims stay in the region to address current unmet needs. 

Breezy Point New York
U.S. Navy Photo by Ryan Courtade

Hurricane Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricane on record and caused the most damage to New York and New Jersey. More than 100 houses in Breezy Point, NY, burned to the ground as flood waters isolated the community from firefighters.

“When we joined together to pass the Sandy relief package in Congress, it was both our intention and expectation to see these funds used first and foremost to meet the unmet needs of Sandy victims,” the Senators wrote.

“Any action to the contrary is not warranted and would leave aid programs unfunded and our ongoing recovery efforts incomplete.”

The Sandy-affected region has seen more than $15 billion of the nearly $20 billion available in flexible federal grants either distributed or obligated, officials say.


Tagged categories: Climate Control; Disasters; Funding; Government; Health and safety; Housing; President Obama; Rebuilding

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