Vice President, Environmental Affairs and Sustainability, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
January 28, 2021
The math of a 50-50 split in the Senate and a razor-thin margin in the House of Representatives require bipartisan pragmatism to get things done. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has focused its efforts on moving policy debates toward the center where our pro-business agenda lives. For example, we were successful last year in championing historic, bipartisan energy and climate innovation legislation that recently became law. Another such opportunity as we head into 2021 exists with resilience. There is broad agreement on both sides of the aisle and among experts across our nation that advancing resilience is a win-win for the environment and the economy, in particular to respond to climate risks to companies and communities.
The U.S. Chamber has long supported building modern, resilient infrastructure. Predisaster mitigation promotes projects that harden infrastructure to prepare, in advance, for future crises. We were pleased to work with the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative, and other stakeholders to enact the bipartisan Safeguarding Tomorrow through Ongoing Risk Mitigation Act (STORM) of 2020 – and capitalize state revolving loan funds that provide low-interest loans for predisater mitigation. We appreciate Congress’ thoughtful leadership in passing this legislation.
It is just one tool among many that are needed. More must be done.
During 2020 the U.S. Chamber outlined our resilience policy principles, which remain relevant to the policy discussion today. Here are a few practical suggestions for which resilience can help the Administration and Congress partner to advance smart, bipartisan policy reforms:
- Elevate resilience as a national priority by establishing a chief resilience officer reporting directly to the President and developing a national resilience strategy, leveraging current interagency coordination under FEMA.
- Fully fund the newly passed STORM Act.
- Urge FEMA to provide the full 6% funding for the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program.
- Set aside a small portion of infrastructure funding to create a resilience predevelopment fund to assist small disadvantaged communities, in particular in the planning and preparing for predisaster mitigation projects.
- Broaden the focus on predisaster mitigation as the infrastructure debate proceeds across the federal family of agencies and programs (e.g., highway and Community Development Block Grant programs).
- Encourage coordination among relevant federal and state agencies to align actions, avoid duplication, and optimize resources.
- Incentivize and institutionalize resilience by providing additional funding, technical assistance, and other benefits to states and communities that are most active in implementing predisaster mitigation, such as green infrastructure and other nature-based solutions.
- Pilot small business planning grants to catalyze strategic, contingency planning among small businesses ahead of the next disaster that may reduce possible future losses and improve resilience.
- Ensure that projects reduce risks and are cost effective by funding actions with a cost-benefit ratio of 1.0 or greater.
These are certainly not the only solutions. But as the Biden Administration settles in and Congress ramps up consideration of comprehensive infrastructure legislation, the time is right to advance these resilience policies. This is one reason that we are leading more than 200 business, environmental, and labor groups in calling for Congress to “Build by the Fourth of July”.
The importance of doing so is clear. Recent articles have underscored the substantial financial losses the U.S. has faced due to extreme weather and natural disasters. Building resilience is an important first step for the business community in its efforts to modernize lifeline infrastructure, grow the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and address the pressing challenges of climate change.
The U.S. Chamber will engage all interested stakeholders to build the durable, bipartisan consensus necessary to get the job done. Please join us in this commonsense effort.