Biden Doubles FEMA Program to Prepare for Extreme Weather

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WASHINGTON — The Biden administration said it would spend $1 billion to help communities prepare for worsening disasters, the latest sign of the toll that climate change is already taking across the United States.

The change will double the current size of a Federal Emergency Management Agency program that gives money to state and local governments to reduce their vulnerability before a disaster happens — for example, building sea walls, elevating or relocating flood-prone homes.

“We’re going to spare no expense, no effort, to keep Americans safe,” Mr. Biden during a visit Monday to FEMA’s headquarters for a briefing on this year’s hurricane season. “We can never be too prepared.”

The new money is less than what some disaster experts had said is needed, especially because the warming planet is making storms, flooding, wildfires and other disasters both more frequent and destructive. The United States experienced 22 disasters that exceeded $1 billion each in damages last year, a record.

“Today that down payment grew substantially, but as a nation we must still do more,” said Mr. Kaniewski, a managing director at Marsh & McLennan Companies, a consulting firm. “It will take investment from all levels of government, the private sector, and each of us individually to mitigate the risks.”

The announcement follows criticism that the Biden administration hasn’t made climate resilience more of a priority.

The administration has moved quickly on climate change, convening a summit of world leaders in April and announcing an aggressive new target to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2030, compared with 2005 levels.

But experts are increasingly urging the federal government to help prepare communities for the destructive impact of that warming.

The White House has begun to respond. Last week, Mr. Biden signed an executive order that reinstated an Obama-era rule imposing higher standards on federally funded construction in flood zones. (The White House initially said Mr. Biden had reinstated that rule on his first day in office, but later said that wasn’t the case.)

Mr. Biden has also ordered each federal agency to produce plans for adapting to the effects of climate change. And he has asked Congress to provide $50 billion for climate resilience as part of his proposed infrastructure package, which has been the subject of ongoing negotiations between the White House and Senate Republicans.

Still, with hurricane and wildfire season starting, the administration faces some significant challenges when it comes to helping the country both prepare for and recover from disasters.

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