Biden allocates $1B to prepare for hurricane, wildfire season

Damage from Hurricane Florence (Photo: NC Emergency Management)

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is doubling the amount of federal funding to help states prepare for natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires, he announced Monday.

His administration is directing $1 billion to the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program, which sends resources to communities, states, and tribal governments to prepare for extreme weather events.

Those federal dollars will be part of an effort to shift the focus from reactive disaster spending to proactive investments that boost community resilience against weather events, according to the White House.

“We’re going to spare no expense, no effort to keep Americans safe and respond to crises when they arise, and they certainly will,” Biden said Monday as he visited the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The announcement of additional federal aid for disaster preparation comes as the country is preparing for what Biden described as “the busiest time of year” for disasters on both sides of the nation: hurricanes along the Southern and Eastern coasts, and wildfire season in the West.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted another above-average season for hurricanes. The agency has forecast 13 to 20 named storms in the Atlantic Ocean during the current season, and six to 10 are projected to become hurricanes.

Those storms would follow a 2020 season that saw 30 storms that were sizable enough to be named — the most on record for a given year. Just seven of those storms claimed a combined 86 lives and caused $40 billion in damage, Biden said.

“This is not about red states and blue states, you all know that,” Biden told a room of emergency management officials during his FEMA visit. “It’s about having people’s backs in the toughest moments they face.”

The Biden administration also said Monday officials will be tapping NASA resources to better forecast and monitor natural disasters. The agency’s Earth System Observatory will use climate data systems to help understand and track how climate change is impacting communities.

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