Davis Proposes Revolving Loan Fund To Help Towns Pay For Disaster Mitigation Projects

Homes flooded near Lawrenceville in 2008.

An aerial view shows homes flooded near the eastern Illinois town of Lawrenceville, after a levee break along the Wabash River in 2008.

Mark Carlson/AP

New legislation in the U-S House of Representatives would create a low-interest loan program to fund mitigation projects to reduce the risks and damage caused by natural disasters. Illinois Congressman Rodney Davis says such projects could make future flooding in his state less of a catastrophe.

Davis is co-sponsoring the Resilience Revolving Loan Fund Act of 2019 (H.R. 3779), with Minnesota Democrat Angie Craig.

Last year, Davis, a Taylorville Republican, was successful in getting legislation passed and signed into law that revises the formula by which decision are made in making federal disaster declarations to help rural communities in states with large urban areas.

But at a Wednesday news conference in Washington, D.C., Davis said this new legislation focuses on helping towns with projects that will prevent damage from floods and other disasters, in hopes of avoiding the need to seek disaster aid afterwards.

“The communities that live along the river, the citizens that live there, are the ones that know best how to make sure that their communities are resilient,” said Davis.

The bill’s sponsors argue that investment in resilience and mitigation projects can save taxpayers over $6.00 for every dollar invested.

The legislation would provide $100 million to set up a revolving loan fund under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The loans could also be used to mitigate damage from other disasters, like storm surges, wildfires, earthquakes and chemical spills.

One Illinois town supporting the bill is Grafton, which is located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. Grafton saw significant population loss from the Great Flood of 1993, and has suffered flood damage for the last three years in a row.

Grafton Mayor Rick Eberlin was one of four mayors from Mississippi River towns to speak at Wednesday’s news conference. He said the loan program could help them curb serious flood damage in the future.

“In Grafton, along with other communities up and down the river, we’re not asking for a handout,” said Eberlin, “we’re simply asking for a helping hand. And I believe this bill and this loan fund will do that for all of our communities.”

Eberlin is part of the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative, which supports the Resilience Revolving Loan Fund Act. Other supporters are the Mississippi River Congressional Caucus, the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Nature Conservancy.

The Resilience Revolving Loan Fund Act has been sent to the House Transportation Committee’s Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management for consideration. Subcommittee Chair Dina Titus (D-Nevada) said at the news conference that she believes there is strong support for the measure on her panel, and that she hopes the legislation can move quickly.

A similar bill was introduced in the House in March by U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist of Florida. However, HR 1610 only covered funding for mitigation projects related to flooding.

Story source: WILL