Reps. Angie Craig, Rodney Davis Introduce Bipartisan Disaster Prevention Bill
Today, U.S. Reps. Angie Craig (D-MN) and Rodney Davis (R-IL) introduced landmark bipartisan legislation to create a low-interest loan program for Minnesota and other states to fund mitigation projects that reduce the risks and costs of natural disasters. The bill, H.R. 3779, called the Resilience Revolving Loan Fund Act of 2019, is authored by the two and follows months of discussion with local mayors affected by a severe flood season as well as FEMA. Loans would be available for projects that minimize the risk of wildfire, earthquake, flood, storm surge, chemical spill, and other events deemed catastrophic by FEMA.
Currently, only one FEMA program provides communities with resources to implement proactive efforts to prevent future damage and that program is restrictive in its eligible activities. The new revolving loan fund would allow states to bring low-interest loans to counties and cities for disaster mitigation projects of varying types that creates the flexibility local governments need to respond to mounting disaster impacts. Repayment of the loans would fund subsequent projects. The legislation is modeled, in part, after the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) program, a successful federal-state partnership to help ensure safe drinking water in the United States.
The 2019 January-May period was the wettest on record for the U.S., causing communities along the Mississippi River to incur severe costs in damages. The flooding damaged homes, temporarily displaced families, and delayed farmers’ planting season. In response, local mayors and community leaders from both Rep. Craig and Rep. Davis’ districts expressed the need for proactive investment in flood plain mapping, levees, water treatment plants, port protection and other critical infrastructure as the severity of natural disasters increases. All of these projects could be funded by The Resilience Revolving Loan Fund. A summary of the bill can be found here.
“As the impact of climate change gets closer and closer to home, we need to make sure our communities have the resources they need to be resilient in the face of increasing natural disasters,” said Rep. Craig. “This bipartisan bill is a direct response to the conversations I have had with local leaders, and I am proud to be able to make the voices of local leaders heard in Washington by championing proactive and affordable investment in disaster-resilient infrastructure.”
“Helping communities prepare for disasters on the front end should be one of the most basic functions of the federal government,” said Rep. Davis. “When we help them invest in disaster mitigation, recovery is faster and we save taxpayer dollars in the long term. I’ve seen the benefit of these investments in my district and this bill will help more communities prepare for and minimize the impact of the next disaster.”
"When the Mayors of the Mississippi River proposed the passage of a Resilience Revolving Loan Fund (RRF) to Congress this past March, Congresswoman Craig led the way from the very beginning, working with Minnesota Mayors and beyond in over ten states. Disasters are costing our economy as much as 8 percent annually. The American taxpayer gets a return of over $6.00 for every $1.00 put into resilience and mitigation. The RRF is simply good fiscal policy that can create real change on the ground," said Mayor Sean Dowse of Red Wing, MN.
"This Resilience Revolving Loan Fund could be a game-changer for us. The longest and largest flood in recorded history has taken a toll on my city. I congratulate Ms. Craig and Mr. Davis for championing the cause of our communities. The RRF will enable us as Mayors to bring new and innovative resilience projects on line," said Mayor Rick Eberlin of Grafton, IL and Illinois Chair for the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative.
The bill is supported by the Co-Chairs of the House Mississippi River Caucus, the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative, The American Society of Civil Engineers, and The Nature Conservancy.
“The amount and severity of natural disasters will continue to rise because of climate change, and our communities need support to adapt and build resilient infrastructure,” said Rep. Betty McCollum, co-chair of the Mississippi River Caucus. “As a Co-Chair of the Mississippi River Caucus and Chair of the Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, I am committed to addressing this growing problem and I am proud to cosponsor this important legislation to deliver the support our communities need.”
“Arkansas’s 1st District is all too familiar with catastrophic flooding. These natural disasters can destroy infrastructure, property, and even lives, and ruin communities’ economies for decades to come,” said Rep. Rick Crawford, co-chair of the Mississippi River Caucus. “The Resilience Revolving Loan Fund Act would help communities build flood resilient infrastructure to avoid flooding in the first place.”
“The damage caused by flooding year after year takes a toll on western Wisconsin families, businesses, and communities. We need to be giving folks the tools they need to be properly prepared for future disasters,” said Rep. Ron Kind, co-chair of the Mississippi River Caucus. “The Resilience Revolving Loan Fund Act will help cities and towns in western Wisconsin invest in projects to reduce damage and minimize risks of future floods and other natural disasters.”
“Communities need options that will help empower them to minimize the risk of emergency disasters such as floods, tornadoes and severe weather,” said Rep. Jason Smith, co-chair of the Mississippi River Caucus. “In 2018 alone, natural disasters cost our country $91 billion dollars. This proposal will reduce that cost by helping localities stand up resilient infrastructure and mitigation projects that will save lives and property as well as taxpayer dollars.”
"The powerful aspect of a revolving loan fund approach is that it motivates diverse partnerships. A city needs committed partners and stakeholders engaged in order to make a resilience loan project work. This is not a grant - the RRF will require that we present efforts with a strong economic case for restoring our natural infrastructure and we can do that. Plus, the RRF is a tremendous example of different levels of government working together for real results," said Mayor Lionel Johnson of St. Gabriel, LA, Co-Chair of the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative.
"My home flooded as a result of the 1,000-year rain event of 2016. It took me nearly a year and a half to return. Clearly, I am personally committed to finding solutions to the increasingly frequent and intense disasters we are sustaining. The Resilience Revolving Loan can be a transformative option for us Mayors to realize preparedness at a level that would be otherwise unobtainable or far out into the future. The good news is that an RRF can assist all the economies that operate in my city including the port of Southern Louisiana, the nation's largest inland port by tonnage," said Mayor Sharon Weston Broome of Baton Rouge, LA and Louisiana Chair for the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative.
"The Delta has been flood-fighting non-stop now for nearly nine months. If we are going to preserve and enhance our economy, we will need to achieve real resilience. Some of the most vulnerable communities to climate risk are in the south. Alleviating vulnerability means no longer approaching solutions just inside our backyard, but at regional and corridor scale. That's exactly what we're doing here today by moving the Resilience Revolving Loan Fund forward - Mayors, states, and members of Congress partnering for positive change," stated Mayor Errick Simmons of Greenville, MS.
"2019 has been a record year for us in Davenport in terms of flooding. From the drought of 2012 to the excessive heatwave that gripped our area last week, Iowa has seen several multi-century events stack-up and worsen over the past few years. We need solutions to these impacts that are different than the same old conventional approach - we need real innovation. The RRF provides a new tool to help us prepare. We're especially supportive of the sponsors prioritizing for natural infrastructure projects in the bill," said Mayor Frank Klipsch of Davenport, IA, Co-Chair of the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative.
In Congress, Rep. Craig advocates for infrastructure improvements and expanded economic opportunity on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. She has also:
- Held a flood briefing with state and local leaders in Hastings to talk about how federal, state, and local governments can work together to prevent flood damage in the district
- Visited Jordan to assess flood damage with local leaders
- Visited a Red Cross shelter housing families already displaced by the spring flood season
- Joined Governor Tim Walz to fill sandbags to assist communities that might be impacted by the spring flooding