Here in Missouri, we believe in common-sense solutions to pressing problems. If there are holes in the roof, you patch them when the sun is out, before it starts raining. You identify the problem, you come up with the simplest, most cost-effective solution, and you fix the problem before it gets any worse. It’s become apparent within the past years that our state has a problem with recurrent flooding. The question is not if flooding will occur again, but when. Based on that, it’s high time that our government does something about the risk flooding poses.
State and federal approaches to disaster recovery have proven woefully inadequate to address the rising issues of flooding. For years, the response has been to wait for the disaster to occur and then to pay out money for repairs. This amounts to a rinse and repeat cycle that feels more like a cold shower than a solution. Since 2000, FEMA has provided assistance to every state to repair roads and bridges, ballooning in costs that surpass $7.5 billion.
Instead of paying out money in response to disasters, more funding should be directed towards improving infrastructure to mitigate damage before disasters happen. As the years go by, the need to improve our nation’s network of roads and bridges becomes more and more apparent. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, 40 percent of bridges over 50 years old and 20 percent of our nation’s highways are in poor condition. One strong disaster and entire regions could be crippled. Repairing and investing in America’s infrastructure is part of President Trump’s plan to make America great again, so we need to find ways to help make that happen.
Thankfully, there is a bill circulating in Congress that takes a more proactive approach to the problem. HR 1610 is a step in the right direction to help improve our nation’s infrastructure and to prepare us for the future. The act, known as the State Flood Mitigation Revolving Fund Act of 2019, permits FEMA to provide grants to the states to establish revolving funds to address flood risks. These funds can help states undertake activities to mitigate flood risks, as identified by FEMA. By investing in smart solutions today to mitigate risk, taxpayers can save millions of dollars in the future. Less destruction from flooding means less payouts which means more money saved.
According to the experts at the National Institute of Building Sciences, such investments would pay off in the long run. They concluded that for every $1 spent on hazard mitigation, $6 is saved in future disaster costs. I support any such measures that will help taxpayers and communities. HR 1610 is a smart-step forward in restoring American infrastructure and protecting our future. I encourage Missouri’s Congressional Delegation to support HR 1610 and to push for improvements to our infrastructure so that we can be prepared when disaster strikes again.
Pat Rowe Kerr is the former State of Missouri Veterans Ombudsman and has a long history of serving as an advocate for Missouri’s veterans, service members, and their families. She and her husband John reside in Jefferson City.