Lankford, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Improve Disaster Recovery Process

WASHINGTON, DC –Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Gary Peters (D-MI), Ron Johnson (R-WI), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) today introduced bipartisan legislation to provide support for local communities facing rising water levels, coastal erosion, and flooding that have put homes and property at risk, and caused millions of dollars in damages. The bipartisan bill would establish loans local governments could access to help mitigate the impact of rising water levels, coastal erosion, and other damage caused by natural disasters in a more cost-effective way. Studies have shown that resilience and mitigation spending saves taxpayers more than $6 for every dollar invested.

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously approved the legislation this week. The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

“FEMA continues to highlight that every $1 spent on mitigating disasters before they take place, saves $6 down the road,” said Lankford. “That’s why it’s important that we invest in mitigation projects on the front end, instead of waiting for disasters to strike. The STORM Act establishes a new grant program that will distribute loans to states for mitigation projects. The bill will also continuously create revenue for additional mitigation projects by directing the interest paid on the loan back to the state for disaster mitigation projects. Only counties with mitigation plans in place will be eligible to receive these funds, which are capped at $5 million to protect taxpayer dollars and ensure the funds are reserved for only smaller-scale mitigation projects like those typically in Oklahoma. Along with the HELP Act, which I introduced in February to speed up the buyout process, I am glad to partner with my colleagues on this bipartisan legislation to address other challenges facing FEMA and disaster victims to help make disaster recovery more efficient and fiscally responsible.”

“Rising water levels in the Great Lakes are wreaking havoc on Michigan’s coastal communities – threatening countless homes and causing tremendous damage to both public and private property,” said Peters. “As water levels continue to rise and coastlines continue to erode, it’s vital that our communities have access to the resources necessary to prepare for and protect against potential disasters. This commonsense bill will provide low-interest loans to counties and cities to address shoreline erosion, save taxpayer dollars and protect local home and business owners’ properties, as well as Michigan’s beautiful coastlines. We need as many tools as possible to help mitigate against the effects of these disasters.”

“I have seen firsthand how the coastlines in Michigan have been devastated by flooding and erosion as a result of record high Great Lakes water levels. Our bill provides local governments in Michigan with additional resources to address this issue. I want to thank Senator Peters for his leadership to get this bipartisan bill passed in committee. This is the type of investment local officials and residents I recently met with said would help. I will continue to work with them to ensure our coastal communities have what they need,” said Stabenow.

The Safeguarding Tomorrow through Ongoing Risk Mitigation (STORM) Act of 2020 would allow FEMA to help states establish revolving loan funds that could be used by local governments to carry out mitigation projects that reduce natural disaster risk, including shoreline erosion and rising water levels. Unlike existing FEMA grants, these low-interest loans would allow local governments to invest in resiliency and mitigation projects that help reduce loss of life and property, the cost of insurance, and disaster recovery payments. These loans would reach the communities more quickly than FEMA’s traditional grants and provide local communities with capital necessary to invest in more resilient infrastructure.