Making Government Work

The Competition for Disaster Relief Funds Heats Up

June 18, 2014
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The Competition for Disaster Relief Funds Heats Up
The Big U in New York will protect Manhattan from floods and storm water through the creation of a protective system. Michael Bocchieri/Getty Images
President Obama’s new plan has states competing to develop new designs for sustainable and resilient development.

When you think of disaster relief, the words that probably come to mind are EMTs and paramedics, FEMA, and the Red Cross.

But for President Obama, it’s competition, resiliency, and natural disasters. These words — together — form his new plan to help with disaster relief.

While that may sound a bit odd, it encourages state and local governments to compete for natural disaster relief funds from the federal government. With $1 billion at stake, Obama challenged communities to create sustainable plans to rebuild and reboot their communities.

With the National Climate Assessment’s report released last month detailing the imminence of climate change, Obama’s plan also comes with the hope of finding ways to combat it. Therefore, competing states should come up with proposals that involve innovative local resilience projects, policy changes, and adaptive plans for extreme weather and climate change.

State and local communities that were declared natural disaster areas between 2011 and 2013 will be eligible for $820 million worth of grants. States hit by Hurricane Sandy will have the opportunity to compete for an additional $180 million. Applicants are required to detail how the proposed action and the disaster are linked.

Winners will receive cash through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Block Grant. Already, a few winners have been named for the Hurricane Sandy competition. Here, a few of the approved projects.

The Big U in New York will protect Manhattan (West 57th Street to The Battery to East 42nd Street) from floods and storm water through the creation of a protective system. This part of the city is low-lying and culturally important, and the project will have environmental and social benefits as well.

Another is the New Meadowlands: Productive City and Regional Park, which will combine transportation, ecology, and development to connect and rebuild the swampy area between New Jersey and New York.

The Jersey Shore will also receive some funding with a focus on repairing the beaches and rejuvenating the communities in the area.

For a listing and description of the rest of the approved projects, click here.

With all of the natural disasters that have occurred recently, President Obama’s competition will hopefully encourage states and local governments to plan and prepare to prevent such devastating effects from occurring in the future — or at least, lessen their impact.

MORE: A National Effort to Boost Local Resources

 

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