WASHINGTON—The Pew Charitable Trusts commends the introduction today of the Flood Resiliency and Taxpayer Savings Act of 2020 in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bipartisan legislation, introduced by Representatives David Price (D-NC) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY), would direct federal agencies to plan for future risks, such as those associated with severe storms and rising sea levels, when using taxpayer dollars to build, improve, or repair communities and infrastructure in flood-prone areas.
Current national standards do not account for the increasing flood risks—or the costly cycle of repair—that are escalating recovery costs. As of 2016, the most recent year in which this assessment took place, the Office of Management and Budget estimated that at least 18,000 federally owned buildings and structures are located in high-risk flood areas. And since 2000, the federal government has paid tens of billions of dollars to help rebuild public infrastructure after major flood disasters. Without updated flood safeguards, that figure is likely to continue to grow.
Laura Lightbody, who directs Pew’s flood-prepared communities initiative, issued the following statement:
“At a time when the cost to taxpayers to recover and rebuild from flood-related disasters is at an all-time high, the Federal Flood Resilience and Saving Taxpayer Dollars Act is urgently needed to help at-risk communities and infrastructure become more resilient. The legislation will reduce the burden of damage and repair that Americans currently face when waters rise.
“Physical damages and economic losses from flood-related disasters in the United States have risen by more than $100 billion every decade since the 1980s. The all-too-common approach of repeatedly repairing and rebuilding hospitals and schools, roads and bridges, and critical utilities without factoring in future risk is not only costly; it’s bad public policy.
“This legislation will put the best available data and risk information to work for the country, ensuring that taxpayer-funded projects are lasting investments that leverage natural systems and other mitigation strategies to reduce flood damage.
“Our national flood policies have historically looked in the rearview mirror when assessing risk. Now Congress has an opportunity to address the growing fiscal burden of flood damages on taxpayers—and to give communities a chance to address future flood risks.”