Policy Decisions Need Facts

On June 8th, I did a posting titled FEMA Wants More Responsibility for Recovery to Go to State and Local Governments The article discusses a major policy change underway at FEMA.

On July 19, the Pew Trust released a report titled What We Don’t Know About State Spending on Natural Disasters Could Cost Us. Here are the 2 concluding paragraphs:

In an era of increasing expensive disasters, efforts to adjust the funding relationship among the federal, state and local levels and managing growing costs though mitigation are likely to increase. However Pew’s research shows that states are not comprehensively tracking their disaster spending. The limited available state data strongly indicate that these expenditures very widely across states. Without complete data about state investments and local cost-sharing practices, any proposal tackling intergovernmental spending issues or cost reduction will be operating largely in the dark.  [Emphasis added.]

As federal efforts take shape in the context of increasing expenditures on all disaster phases, a commitment from state and federal policymakers to collect and share comprehensive data is critical. Understanding the full scope of spending on natural disasters will help leaders at all levels of government as they work to control the growing costs of these events in dollars, property losses and lives.

Bottom line:  the change in policy needs to be based on facts and reality. I see a major disconnect here.  I think we headed for growing threats/risks/vulnerabilities while simultaneously seeing retrenching and weakened federal capabilities. It is not going to be pretty.

Your comments are invited.

5 thoughts on “Policy Decisions Need Facts

  1. Presently, it seems to be sport in the capital region to constantly criticize the current administration, regardless of their policies, because they do not follow the prescribed approach to governing. So any new ideas or practices are automatically dismissed, usually with a fair amount of public ridicule which often times leads to personal attacks. Because a federal program is downsized or their mission is adjusted, does not mean bad things will happen or people will die. While I do not agree with everything that the current administration promotes or supports, at least they realize that federal government spending and related operations is not sustainable over the long term, so at least give them credit for recognizing that fact and making the effort to address the issue.

    Around this time last year I recall reading “end of the world” articles about FEMA not being able to respond to disasters because they did not have an administrator. Obviously, FEMA had a challenging 2017 hurricane season, but they held their own considering the scope and severity of the storms. And by most accounts, the current FEMA Administrator seems be receiving high marks regarding his management of FEMA. We all should take a collective deep breath and allow the current administration to chart their course without resorting to such extreme measures. While we might disagree with the federal government, it is still our government which governs over the best country on this planet.

    Finally, many local communities have taken significant steps to mitigate damage from hazards, as they have a strong understanding of what needs to be accomplished to become more storm resilient and to protect their residents. Give the locals the money and most will be appreciative of the support along with spending the financial assistance wisely.

  2. Claire, you’re looking for fact-based policy in the current Administration? Or across-the-board consistent implementation of that policy? Ask for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow while you’re at it. 🙂

  3. As always, the Devil’s in the details. In principle, the change in policy makes sense – state and local governments taking responsibility for themselves. In practice, it’s not clear what the change might really mean. A confounding factor is the almost $6 trillion in unfunded state and local pension liabilities that it appears the Feds will eventually have to help cover. Makes a few billion per state for disaster funding look a lot more palatable! Further, if this policy change pushed states and municipalities into getting serious about finding ways to hold down disaster costs (e.g., adopting up-to-date building codes) then it could be a win-win all around.

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