WASHINGTON: The White House is making more than US$1 billion available to states to address flooding and extreme heat exacerbated by climate change.
Vice President Kamala Harris is set to announce the grant programmes on Monday (Aug 1) at an event in Miami with the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other officials. The competitive grants will help communities across the nation prepare for and respond to climate-related disasters.
"We know that the impacts of the climate crisis are here, and that we must invest in building resilience to protect our communities, infrastructure and economy,'' the White House said in a statement.
The announcement comes as the death toll from massive flooding in Kentucky continued to climb on Sunday amid a renewed threat of more heavy rains. In the West, wildfires in California and Montana exploded in size amid windy, hot conditions, encroaching on neighbourhoods and forcing evacuation orders.
Multiple Western states continued heat advisories amid a prolonged drought that has dried reservoirs and threatened communities across the region.
Harris will visit the National Hurricane Center for a briefing by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). She also will visit Florida International University, where she is expected to address extreme weather events across the country, including the flooding in Kentucky and Missouri and the wildfires in California.
President Joe Biden announced last month that the administration will spend $2.3 billion to help communities cope with soaring temperatures through programmes administered by FEMA, the Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies.
The move doubles spending on the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities, or BRIC, program, which supports states, local communities, tribes and territories on projects to reduce climate-related hazards and prepare for natural disasters such as floods and wildfires.
“Communities across our nation are experiencing first-hand the devastating impacts of the climate change and the related extreme weather events that follow - more energised hurricanes with deadlier storm surges, increased flooding and a wildfire season that’s become a year-long threat,” FEMA head Deanne Criswell said.
The funding to be announced Monday will “help to ensure that our most vulnerable communities are not left behind, with hundreds of millions of dollars ultimately going directly to the communities that need it most'', Criswell said.
A total of US$1 billion will be made available through the BRIC program, with another US$160 million to be offered for flood mitigation assistance, officials said.
Jacksonville, Florida, was among cities that received money under the BRIC programme last year. The city was awarded US$23 million for flood mitigation and stormwater infrastructure. Jacksonville, the largest city in Florida, sits in a humid, subtropical region along the St Johns River and Atlantic Ocean, making it vulnerable to flooding when stormwater basins reach capacity. The city experiences frequent flooding and is at risk for increased major storms.
The South Florida Water Management District in Miami-Dade County received US$50 million for flood mitigation and pump station repairs. Real estate development along the city’s fast-growing waterfront has created a high-risk flood zone for communities in the city and put pressure on existing systems, making repairs to existing structures an urgent need, officials said.
The Biden administration has launched a series of actions intended to reduce heat-related illness and protect public health, including a proposed workplace heat standard.