A new nonprofit is calling on the government to create a fund dedicated solely to extreme weather protection and relief.
On Monday, New Jersey-based group US Strong released its report, “Extreme Weather, Extreme Costs” which found that the costs of Superstorm Sandy have exceeded $70 billion, with New Jersey bearing the brunt of more than half of those costs. The release of the report officially launched the nonprofit’s campaign for an “Extreme Weather Relief and Protection Fund,” which would make sure that disaster relief money is available immediately after an extreme weather event takes place, and would also help communities become more resilient and weather-proofed.
“We all know that no politician likes to talk about finding new revenue streams but we know when you’re looking at the impact of Sandy that we should not be raising property taxes and income tax and sales tax and we should not be adding to our deficit,” Curtis Fisher, US Strong’s national campaign director, said during a press conference Monday.
US Strong says it’ll leave figuring out where the money for the relief fund will come from — and how much will be needed — “to the experts,” but it does say on its website that a logical source of funding would be a carbon tax. The campaign has earned the support of some local politicians, including state Sen. Robert Singer (R) who spoke at the press conference.
“We need a dedicated source of money that people who are hit by disaster, whether it’s Sandy or a tornado which we saw in the Midwest this past year or severe flooding we’ve seen in Colorado, they can be assured the money is there,” Sen. Singer said. “They don’t have to wait and put themselves at the mercy of some congressman or senator saying, ‘I don’t really think I have to do it because it doesn’t affect my constituency.’”
US Strong’s report highlights stories of New Jersey residents and business owners who have struggled to rebuild after Superstorm Sandy. One couple had been assured that FEMA would foot the cost to raze their home, which needed to be demolished and raised 9 feet above sea level. But after paying for the demolition of 200 homes, FEMA changed its policy, which has forced the couple to borrow money to raze and rebuild their home.
The report also notes that incidences of extreme weather driven by climate change are increasing around the world, a trend that necessitates more preparedness and better, more efficient funding programs after disasters. It took Congress more than two months to approve federal relief funds for Sandy victims — a delay that a dedicated fund would help prevent.
“What lies beyond the impersonal and huge Sandy storm cost numbers is the fact that pocketbooks are being emptied, hard-earned savings have been swallowed whole, homes have been lost, small business owners’ dreams have crumbled and new debt has been incurred,” Fisher said. “This is the new face of climate change and extreme weather and I think it’s fundamentally different than what existed before.”