(CN) – Citing the effects of climate change, Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg rolled out a plan Tuesday to ensure communities nationwide are prepared for natural disasters – the first 2020 hopeful to do so.
Buttigieg pointed to his experience with a 500-year flood and 1,000-year flood as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, saying “we can’t stop all natural disasters from striking, but we can control how we prepare for and recover from them” in a post for Medium on Tuesday.
“The science is clear: catastrophic weather events are increasing in frequency, intensity, and impact,” Buttigieg said, indicating the record number of major disasters has cost the United States $150 billion in each of the last three years.
The 37-year-old mayor’s plan seeks to bridge the shortfalls of disaster relief for black and Latino communities, which are disproportionately affected by and less able to recover from natural disasters without the proper assistance.
He noted Hurricane Maria, calling the aid to Puerto Rico – a United States commonwealth – “delayed and insufficient.” FEMA denied individual aid to nearly one-third of the 1.1 million Puerto Ricans who applied for aid from the government agency, the candidate said.
Tuesday’s plan offers solutions to what Buttigieg calls an incomplete patchwork of grants to help cities and counties prepare for natural disasters and recover afterward, which “mostly comes only after a disaster strikes, and it can be complicated and confusing to access.”
Buttigieg calls for improving coordination between communities and federal agencies like FEMA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, where lack of coordination can prevent assistance from reaching those who need it most.
To do this, Buttigieg said he will set up a Disaster Commission within his first 100 days in office which will be overseen by a senior White House official with direct access to the Oval Office.
This commission would streamline relief applications and data collection, simplify reviews and audits of funds already dispensed, and create a permanent source of disaster relief funding that the commission can access quickly and precisely in order to get relief resources where they need to go.
Buttigieg wants to see a culture of resilience that acknowledges the inevitability of natural disasters but also keeps communities prepared, which requires “planning, modernizing our infrastructure, and making smart choices about where we build and how we view risk.”
In addition, the proposal seeks to boost insurance resources for disasters, including launching a National Catastrophic Extreme Weather insurance program to balance catastrophic risk with the private sector and updating FEMA’s flood insurance maps and the technology that helps determine those maps.
Buttigieg would also provide $250 billion each to the American Clean Energy Bank, to offer loans, grants and credit to finance resilient infrastructure projects, and the Global Investment Initiative, which will match a $250 billion private investment over 10 years so that the public and private sector can team up on clean energy and resilient infrastructure research and development.
The third and final pillar of the plan looks directly at immediate disaster relief and where it needs improvement. This would involve protecting FEMA’s funding and increasing its trained relief workforce, upgrading its capabilities to create Wi-Fi hotspots to connect disaster survivors and improving 911 infrastructure.
In all, the 2020 presidential candidate’s plan seeks to enact a shift toward “making it the government’s job to actually help people in their time of greatest need” and empower communities from the bottom up to prepare for potential disasters.