April 02, 2014

Ranking Member Carson's Statement on Disaster Mitigation

April 3, 2014

Good morning and welcome to our witnesses. Chairman Barletta, thank you for working with me to schedule today’s hearing on how Disaster Mitigation can save lives and reduce costs.

Before we begin, I want to extend my thoughts and condolences to those who lost loved ones in the mudslide in Oso, Washington.  While nothing we do here can end your grief, I want everyone impacted to know that we stand ready to help however we can.

I also want to recognize the rescue workers, including the National Guard and Urban Search and Rescue teams, who have dutifully and admirably performed this difficult task despite the terrible conditions.

Mr. Chairman, if you don’t object, let’s take a moment of silence to recognize the losses in Oso, Washinton.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

Today, our Nation is at a critical junction.  In recent years, we have seen strong storms with greater frequency. This results in increased vulnerability for our citizens and property.  

For years, we have seen areas damaged by disaster rebuild, only to be damaged again later.   There’s no doubt that across the country, our constituents will continue to face floods, tornadoes, hurricanes and other disasters.  Unless something is done now, this cycle of build, damage, and rebuild will continue.  The result  will be large bills for taxpayers that might have been avoided with proper preparation.  

Members of our Committee know that we must support mitigation programs to break this cycle.  This is also why I introduced H.R. 3282, to reauthorize the     Pre-disaster Mitigation Program for five years at its current authorized level of $200 million.  I encourage my colleagues to join me in supporting this critical bill which saves lives and reduces property damage by making critical investments in advance.  

I also want to thank the 54 bipartisan members who joined Chairman Barletta and I in sending a letter to the Appropriations Committee this week.  We urged them to fund the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program sufficiently to actually implement mitigation projects.

Independent studies have shown that mitigation saves taxpayers money.  This year, the President’s Budget requested approximately $7 billion for the disaster relief fund, which will be used to assist with disaster response and recovery.  The more we invest in pre-disaster mitigation, the less will be needed in the future for disaster response and recovery.

Because of the Sandy Relief Implementation Act, states now have up to 25% of their hazard mitigation grant funds available soon after a disaster.  I hope that this encourages communities to incorporate mitigation strategies into their rebuilding process.

In this hearing, it is important for us to remember that a major part of mitigation is community buy-in. Community support and participation is absolutely critical to ensuring effective mitigation strategies are undertaken.  

One of the challenges that we face is how to encourage those who will be affected the most to take the steps necessary to prepare for future disasters.  This is a difficult choice because it costs more money upfront that many cannot afford.

Finally, I am interested in learning more about any strategies that may be available to educate younger generations about the importance of safe building practices and mitigation strategies.

I welcome today’s testimony as we consider this important topic. Thank you to the witnesses for your testimony.