Vice President, Environmental Affairs and Sustainability, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
June 08, 2020
During this historic and uncertain time, it is more important than ever to invest in resilient infrastructure.
Improving lifeline infrastructure, such as communications, energy, food, health, and water, is necessary for companies and communities to recover from this pandemic and respond more effectively ahead of the next crisis.
The rationale and economic impact
We need a new generation of roads, bridges, waterways, transit, and water treatment systems that not only meet the physical demands of a modern economy but also withstand the unpredictable blows of extreme weather events and other national crises. As our nation begins the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and hurricane season begins, many businesses are especially vulnerable to additional burdens from natural disasters.”
The United Nations estimates that the global cost of natural disasters from 2003 to 2013 was $1.5 trillion, and that these disasters affected more than 2 billion people. A World Bank studyindicates that $4.2 trillion can be saved in low- and middle-income countries with more resilient infrastructure. There are also estimates that resilience and mitigation spending pays back the taxpayer more than $11.00 for every $1.00 invested.
Before the next disaster strikes, we must be prepared. Small businesses especially are facing unprecedented challenges. According to a Metlife and U.S. Chamber surveyreleased last week, more than 8 in 10 are concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on their business.
Resilience and predisaster mitigation are good public policy, which is good for the environment and the economy.
The U.S. Chamber has been working with more than 150 of our member companies, state and local chambers, and trade associations on resilience policy principles to underscore our continued support for policies that reduce risks from future disasters, promote pre-disaster mitigation and proactive adaptation to climate impacts, and support high-growth companies that fuel prosperity for communities across our nation. The principles are as follows:
- Provide dedicated funding for predisaster mitigation. Congress should establish dedicated funding to encourage predisaster mitigation.
- Develop policies that reduce risks for companies and communities.The U.S. Chamber supports policies that reduce risks of future losses and optimizes the capabilities of companies and communities to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters and climate impacts.
- Catalyze more coordination and integration.Numerous state and local officials involved in resilience, including state emergency managers, homeland security advisers, insurance commissioners, public safety, fire, transportation, energy, water, and natural resources agencies should coordinate to align priorities and strategies. Officials should also integrate with regional resilience plans. Coordination must occur among the relevant federal energy, small business, transportation, and water agencies to ensure appropriate selection of effective predisaster mitigation projects, alignment with existing disaster recovery and post-disaster mitigation efforts, current and future workforce needs and capabilities, and integration with various funding sources.
- Facilitate innovation.The U.S. Chamber encourages investments utilizing the latest innovations and technologies, including automation, smart technologies, and other digital platforms, to modernize the nation’s infrastructure.
- Promote public-private partnerships.The business community has significant technical and practical expertise in identifying and mitigating risks to develop and implement effective resilience solutions. This effort includes the potential to help mobilize private capital to leverage public investments. Legislation should prioritize grants or loans to those predisaster mitigation projects that bring private investment to complement federal financing.
- Ensure continuity planning for small businesses.Sixty-five percent of small businesses have no continuity plans in place. Policies and funding should incentivize strategic planning among small businesses ahead of the next disaster.
- Encourage the use of American National Standards when referring to consensus-based codes. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accredits the process by which other organizations in the United States create standards and is recognized as the “gold seal” for standards development. Policies and programs should take advantage of the latest editions of voluntary, consensus standards, in particular those designated as American National Standards, in their predisaster mitigation initiatives.
Representative policy examples
- The U.S. Chamber joined the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative, the American Society for Civil Engineers, and other stakeholders in advocating for the proposed Resilience Revolving Loan Fund Act, which would offer states the needed flexibility to provide low-interest loans for projects that have the greatest impact and reduce risks for companies and communities in their areas. Letter of support for the U.S. House and Senate bills can be found here and here.
- The U.S. Chamber engaged a broad coalition of stakeholders to suggest improvements to a bill to authorize the Community Development Block Grant disaster recovery program to include predisaster mitigation. The coalition letter is here.
- The U.S. Chamber is collaborating with the BuildStrong Coalition, FEMA, and others on regional workshops to engage public and private decision makers on how to access funds from the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program, which Congress created in 2018. This fund could provide as much as $1 billion in risk-reducing predisaster assistance every year. The Chamber’s comments on recent FEMA policy guidance is here. A presentation outlining the program is here.
We are making progress, but there is more work to do. Companies and communities need all the tools in the resilience toolbox. As U.S. Chamber CEO Tom Donohue said, “Bad infrastructure is bad for business. Unless we take meaningful action to address this problem, loss in business sales could soar above $23 trillion by the year 2040.”
For additional information and to get involved, please email Chuck Chaitovitz, vice president, environmental affairs and sustainability at the U.S. Chamber, at email@example.com.