FEMA Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grants Axed in DHS Funding Bill

By Brandon Ross

June 9 — The Federal Emergency Management Agency's funding for its pre-disaster mitigation grant program would be slashed nearly in half to about $55 million under a bill approved by a House Appropriations Committee panel.

The Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee in bipartisan fashion advanced the Department of Homeland Security's fiscal year 2017 spending measure on a June 9 voice vote without any amendments.

But Rep. Nita Lowey (N.Y.), the full committee's top Democrat, criticized the cut in pre-disaster mitigation spending, echoing complaints from insurers, real estate interests, wildlife advocates and others. She said widespread evidence shows that spending on such measures, such as the establishment and enforcement of stricter building codes, yields savings compared with the money spent on post-disaster recovery (See previous story, 04/06/16) (See previous story, 02/23/16).

Lowey also noted that the bill would cut $12.5 million from FEMA's flood zone mapping functions compared to FY 2016, bringing funding to $177.5 million for mapping.

“The more we invest in mitigation, the more we save when disasters inevitably strike,” Lowey said, calling the cuts “troubling.”

Insurers: Savings a ‘Mirage.'

The mitigation cuts represent a “backwards approach” to the goal of saving taxpayers' money, Jimi Grande, senior vice president of federal and political affairs for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC), told Bloomberg BNA in a June 9 e-mail statement.

“Any savings for taxpayers from these cuts are just a mirage, because the inevitable—and inevitably much, much bigger—disaster aid bill following the next catastrophe will come off-budget,” Grande said in the statement.

Despite the criticism from Grande and Lowey, the subcommittee and President Barack Obama had other priorities. The pre-disaster mitigation cut falls in line with what Obama requested for the DHS's FY 2017 budget.

Overall, the subcommittee-approved budget would boost funding $432 million over the White House request.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brandon Ross in Washington at bross@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Rothman at hrothman@bna.com

For More Information

The draft DHS subcommittee bill can be found here: http://src.bna.com/fL8.