One Storm Shy of Despair: A Climate-Smart Plan for the Administration to Help Low-Income Communities

This Center for American Progress report assesses how low-income communities in the U.S. are disproportionately vulnerable to climate change effects. The report offers recommendations for policymakers to build community resilience to extreme weather events, environmental hazards, and economic security for low-income communities.

Recognizing elevated risks of more extreme weather and climate change in low-income communities, the Center builds a strong argument as to why federal, state, and local policymakers must take immediate action to strengthen the resilience of these communities. Noting that while the upfront costs of strengthening community resilience can be high, resilience investments pay off by saving lives and significantly reducing taxpayer spending on disaster recovery. The report cites the finding that every dollar that the Federal Emergency Management Agency invests in resilience saves the nation $4 in disaster-recovery costs.

The report describes how certain climate impacts affect at-risk populations, providing conceptual linkages and statistics about:

  • Aging infrastructure
  • High environmental hazards
  • Extreme heat
  • Flooding
  • Job loss
  • Food security

Strategic recommendations on federal reform are given for then President Obama’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience to strengthen affordable housing and infrastructure; reduce environmental hazards and disaster risks; enhance economic stability, and more. Some examples include (recommendations quoted directly):

  • The president should call on agencies to make resilience a core aspect of all federal infrastructure and disaster-recovery funding. For example, the Department of Housing and Urban Development should ensure that the roughly $3 billion available annually for Community Development Block Grants, and all supplemental disaster-recovery funds channeled through this program, support climate-resilient and sustainable housing and other projects.
  • Federal, state, and local policymakers should foster social cohesion in low-income communities by supporting programs that build relationships between public and affordable housing residents and community leaders, improving disaster-relief plans for affordable-housing developments, and providing technical assistance to community-based organizations to increase response capacity.
  • To minimize costly disaster damages, federal agencies and cities should increase investments in green infrastructure - parks and green roofs that soak up rainwater and reduce stormwater runoff - and the restoration of natural systems in coastal areas, such as wetlands and oyster reefs that serve as buffers to storm surges and provide other environmental and economic benefits.

 

Publication Date: July 17, 2014

Author or Affiliated User:

  • Cathleen Kelly

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  • Policy analysis/recommendations

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