Paying for Disaster Relief and Recovery
Paying Sandy’s Big Bill;Wash Post editorial, Jan 16, 2013. Some excerpts:
… Americans should be shocked that lawmakers still haven’t reformed the slapdash way Congress deals with disasters. The claim that those future big storms have on federal funds is potentially massive — $10 to $25 billion in a normal year and $80 to $170 billion in a bad one …. Though costs are hard to predict, Congress should at least budget disaster-assistance money upfront to the greatest extent possible and through the normal appropriations process, where the spending trade-offs are clearer and lawmakers don’t have to legislate under the duress of emergency.
Increasingly, too, Congress has been investing in infrastructure upgrades as part of disaster relief, under the compelling logic that spending some money to prepare now will head off much higher costs later. Lawmakers have considered doing the same in the Sandy recovery effort. That worthy goal, though, deserves the rational structure of a long-term plan that assesses how much the country can afford to protect and determines where to invest, instead of being tacked here and there to disaster-relief bills. Among other things, a coherent strategy would discourage Americans from building in vulnerable areas the government is unlikely to protect.