Proposed Change in Federal Funding of Disasters

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Article titled Debt Deal Reopens Debate on Climate Catastrophes appeared in the NY Times, August 10, 2011.

A provision tucked into the debt ceiling legislation is rekindling debate about the nation’s ability to pay for soaring catastrophe losses as coastal development and carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise.

The nation has struggled for years to find an effective way to help communities rebuild homes, businesses and infrastructure after natural disasters. Now, in a collision between downward federal spending and an upward presence of catastrophes, Congress is moving to pre-fund disasters.

The last-minute legislation approved by Congress last week to raise the debt ceiling creates a disaster fund that will carry billions of dollars for recovery in hard-hit areas. The fund is a money-saving effort proposed by the president’s bipartisan fiscal commission last December in its report “The Moment of Truth.”

The fund could reduce stress on the deficit by preventing the need for emergency supplemental appropriations made in the wake of a crisis. Those unplanned expenses are not included in the budget, so it amounts to new debt

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