Government programs helping to rebuild after natural disasters
Natural disasters, like the storms and devastating wildfires, do far more damage than destroying people’s property and lives. They also disrupt local municipal budgets.
SOME MIGHT SAY, LOCAL BUREAUCRACY IS FAR LESS IMPORTANT THAN PEOPLE’S HOMES AND POSSESSIONS. THESE LOCAL GOVERNMENTS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR:
- police and fire protection
- roads and other aspects of local infrastructure
COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT GRANTS
One solution a long-standing federal program. Congress has used this program to help communities recover from major disasters. When Superstorm Sandy descended on the New Jersey coastline in 2012, the state allocated portions of the $4.1 billion. Federal Government allocated the amount to replace lost tax revenue and maintain services without having to enact steep tax increases.
Congress has approved some $50 billion in block grants over the last 25 years. Under a new bill, the communities affected by recent storms Harvey and Irma stand to receive $7.4 billion in disaster relief funds.
BLOCK GRANTS ARE DIFFERENT FROM OTHER TYPES OF DISASTER RELIEF. IN THAT, THERE IS MORE FLEXIBILITY AS TO HOW THE FUNDS MAY BE USED. LOCAL OFFICIALS CAN:
- allocate funds to compensate home business owners
- invest in various forms of economic development, along with working on infrastructure repair
It can be used to prepare for future disasters. After the water treatment plant in Galveston, Texas succumbed to the ravages of hurricane Ike in 2008, block grant funds were used to build a new facility. The new one successfully weathered hurricane, Harvey.
The Northern California wildfires, which are only now being brought under control, have resulted in the destruction of more than 3,500 homes and businesses, including 22 wineries. Although it remains to be seen how much disaster relief will come from the federal government, the flexibility of the federal block grants will surely be an essential part of the recovery effort. Local governments, with their close personal ties to those who have been directly affected by the disasters, are better equipped to deploy these limited funds where they can do the most good.