Low-income communities are disproportionately affected by extreme weather, according to a report out Monday from the Center for American Progress that offers policy recommendations to shore up infrastructure and protect against future damages.
The report, “A Disaster in the Making: Addressing the Vulnerability of Low-Income Communities to Extreme Weather,” states that neighborhoods where a majority of residents live at or below the poverty line are ill-prepared to deal with fallout from storms and other weather-related disasters. As a result, extreme weather hits low-income communities harder.
“While many describe storms and other extreme weather as ‘social equalizers’ that do not differentiate based on ethnicity, race, or class, the truth is that these events exacerbate our underlying economic inequities,” writes Tracey Ross, the report’s author and a senior policy analyst with the center’s Poverty to Prosperity program.
Ross uses superstorm Sandy to illustrate her point. The majority of New York City storm-surge victims were low-income renters, she writes, citing a statistic provided by the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. Residents of subsidized high-rise apartments were trapped inside their homes in large numbers during the storm, often because they had nowhere to go and no way to leave. In other cases, elderly or disabled individuals living at or below the poverty line were stranded inside high-rise towers when power outages put elevators out of service.
To prevent these outcomes in the future, the report offers a number of policy recommendations aimed at strengthening the resilience of low-income communities to extreme weather. The report suggests public-housing authorities retrofit existing structures to guard against storm damage. It notes, however, that renovation can lead to rent increases and recommends expanding availability of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit to offset a rise in prices.
The report also calls on policymakers to address economic and environmental risk factors. It suggests making disaster-mitigation insurance more affordable for low-income individuals and recommends restored funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which saw a 30 percent cut in its operating budget from 2011 to 2012.
Ross also points out that “following a disaster, one of the immediate concerns of families is food security,” and emphasizes the importance of safeguarding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as food stamps, as well as the related Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or D-SNAP. The report also urges extending benefit payout periods for disaster unemployment assistance and unemployment insurance programs.
In a final note of warning, Ross writes: “We cannot continue to ignore our nation’s housing crisis, the environmental justice issues that continue to plague our communities, and the growing economic inequality that inhibits our country’s growth. Resiliency in low-income communities is an investment we can and must make.”
What We're Following See More »
President Trump’s portrayal of an effort to funnel more Medicaid dollars to Puerto Rico as a "bailout" is complicating negotiations over a continuing resolution on the budget. "House Democrats are now requiring such assistance as a condition for supporting the continuing resolution," a position that the GOP leadership is amenable to. "But Mr. Trump’s apparent skepticism aligns him with conservative House Republicans inclined to view its request as a bailout, leaving the deal a narrow path to passage in Congress."
Democrats in the House are threatening to shut down the government if Republicans expedite a vote on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, said Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer Thursday. Lawmakers have introduced a one-week spending bill to give themselves an extra week to reach a long-term funding deal, which seemed poised to pass easily. However, the White House is pressuring House Republicans to take a vote on their Obamacare replacement Friday to give Trump a legislative victory, though it is still not clear that they have the necessary votes to pass the health care bill. This could go down to the wire.
Members of Congress are eyeing a one-week spending bill which would keep the government open past the Friday night deadline, giving lawmakers an extra week to iron out a long-term deal to fund the government. Without any action, the government would run out of funding starting at midnight Saturday. “I am optimistic that a final funding package will be completed soon," said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
The White House on Wednesday laid out its plan for tax reform, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying it would be "the biggest tax cut and the largest tax reform in the history of our country." The tax code would be broken down into just three tax brackets, with the highest personal income tax rate cut from 39.6 percent to 35 percent. The plan would also slash the tax rate on corporations and small businesses from 35 percent to 15 percent. "The White House plan is a set of principles with few details, but it’s designed to be the starting point of a major push to urge Congress to pass a comprehensive tax reform package this year," said National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn.