Financing Community Resilience Before Disaster Strikes: Lessons From the United States

Charlotte L. Kirschner, Akheil Singla and Angie Flick

in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Natural Hazard Science

Published online June 2018 | e-ISBN: 9780199389407 | DOI:

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As more and more of the population moves to areas prone to natural hazards, the costs of disasters are on the rise. Given that these events are an eventuality, governments must aid their communities in promoting disaster resilience, enabling their communities to reduce their susceptibility to natural hazards, and adapting to and recovering from disasters when they occur.

The federal system in the United States divides these responsibilities among national, state, and local governments. Local and state governments are largely responsible for the direct provision of services to their communities, and the Stafford Act of 1988 provides that the federal government will pay at least 75% of all eligible expenses once a presidential major disaster declaration has been made. As a result, state and local governments have become largely reliant on transfers from the federal government to pay for disaster relief and recovery efforts. This system encourages state and local governments to ignore the risks they face and turn to the federal government for aid after a disaster.

This system also seems to underemphasize an important mechanism that can bolster disaster resilience: financing the costs of disasters in advance through ex ante budgeting. Four tools for budgeting ex ante—intergovernmental grants, disaster stabilization funds, the municipal bond market, and hazard insurance—are described and examples of their use provided. Despite limited use by state governments, these tools provide governments the opportunity to build community resilience to disasters by budgeting ex ante for them.

Keywords: public budgeting; community resilience; disasters; state and local public finance; mitigation; insurance; capital markets and municipal bonds; budget stabilization funds

Article.  9801 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Environmental Politics

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