Congress Passes Resilience Loan Fund Measure

Both houses of Congress passed a measure long sought by flood-vulnerable towns and rivers bordering the Mississippi River: the Resilience Revolving Loan Fund Act. The bill was passed on its own December 17, separately from the omnibus bill that included the Water Resources Development Act. All that remains is for President Donald Trump to sign it into law.

The bill authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to enter into agreements with any state or Indian tribal government to make capitalization grants for the establishment of hazard mitigation revolving loan funds. The bill specifies, “Such funds shall provide funding assistance to local governments to carry out projects to reduce disaster risk in order to decrease the loss of life and property, the cost of insurance claims and federal disaster payments.” The loans will be provided at a rate of 1.5 percent, a rate that can’t go higher according to the law.

Colin Wellenkamp, executive director of the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative (MRCTI), a coalition of more than 100 cities and towns located along the length of the Mississippi River, said, “This is a first of its kind for the federal government in providing a new and innovative tool to reduce vulnerabilities to disasters.”MRCTI co-chair, Sharon Weston Broome, mayor of Baton Rouge, La., said, “For cities along the nation’s most important waterway, resilience is key to protecting our economy and reducing climate risk for the future. Our corridor has sustained over $210 billion in actual losses since 2005. Local resilience is our path forward.”

Tom Smith, executive director of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), said, “The Resilience Revolving Loan Fund would help communities take proactive measures in the wake of the record-breaking flooding our country has experienced, and it would facilitate innovative solutions that allow cities to reduce federal disaster spending in the future.. Prioritizing resilient infrastructure, including energy and water systems, is critical to a thriving economy and healthy communities, and ASCE is proud to support this legislation.”

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Mayor Rick Eberlin of Grafton, Ill., said, “Protecting our communities from the increasing disasters we are facing is about leveraging the possible $12 we get back from every dollar spent on mitigation, and we’re doing that along the entire Mississippi River.”

Resilience Officer

Wellenkamp added, “In tandem with [the bill’s] passage, our organizations are calling on the president-elect to create the position of White House chief resilience officer to coordinate and organize congressional work [on flood and disaster resilience] across the federal portfolio.”

“Here in Minnesota and specifically in Saint Paul, we have been leading on resilience,” said Mayor Melvin Carter of Saint Paul, Minn. “Not only through the work Reps. Betty McCollum and Angie Craig have done, but at the local level, too, where we are responding to increased flooding along the Mississippi; that is why I created the position of chief resilience officer for my city, and we have developed a comprehensive climate action and resilience plan.”  “Improving natural infrastructure along the Mississippi River corridor is a major part of our resilience strategy.”

Chuck Chaitovitz, vice president, environmental affairs and sustainability, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said, “Raising the importance of resilience to federal program leaders requires the strategic and unifying position of CRO that reports directly to the president. Pre-disaster mitigation and resilience is good public policy. We urge the president-elect to create this position on day one.”