One Storm Shy of Despair

A Climate-Smart Plan for the Administration to Help Low-Income Communities
Two weeks after Superstorm Sandy, a line of people wait to receive supplies donated to the victims of the hurricane.

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2 Weeks after Superstorm Sandy, a line of people wait to receive supplies donated to the victims of the hurricane

By Cathleen Kelly and Tracey Ross

President Barack Obama announced yesterday at the fourth and final meeting of the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience a series of actions to help state, local, and tribal officials prepare their communities for the effects of climate change. These actions range from helping communities to develop more resilient infrastructure and rebuild stronger and smarter existing infrastructure, to making our coasts more resilient, to providing decision makers with better information on flood and other climate change risks. These are laudable actions that will help communities better prepare for the real and costly effects of climate change. But more action is needed, in particular, to address the skyrocketing risks of climate change in low-income communities.

While many describe extreme weather events as “social equalizers” that do not differentiate based on ethnicity, race, or class, the truth is that these events usually hit low-income communities the hardest because they exacerbate the health, safety, financial, and other socioeconomic problems that low-income communities experience year round.

Aside from a few new federal disaster assistance requirements aimed at helping low-income communities recover from Superstorm Sandy, increasing equity and protecting the most vulnerable populations from climate change risks have not been a strong focus of federal disaster-recovery efforts, resilience strategies, or planning. However, the task force, which the president created in his Climate Action Plan and launched by a November 2013 executive order, has an important opportunity to change this and help protect low-income communities from extreme weather events.

Here are four critical steps that can be taken to create resilient, safe, and equitable communities.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

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Sequestration, the Pentagon, and the States

Sequestration, the Pentagon, and the States offers selected state-level briefs focused on the local impact of looming automatic across-the-board federal spending cuts known as sequestration and historically high levels of Pentagon spending.

On March 1, unless Congress acts, billions of dollars will be cut from domestic programs and the Pentagon. But while these cuts will have a devastating impact on many domestic programs, the Pentagon is better positioned to absorb them due to the significant growth in military spending over the past decade.

Highlights of the release focus on critical domestic programs that could see their funding cut if sequestration goes into effect, and the impact that modest reductions in Pentagon spending could have to safeguard these programs, such as:

  • A $50 billion cut in Pentagon spending could fund five years of Community Development Block Grants AND five years of Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) AND four years of Homeless Assistance Grants.
  • Military spending has grown by 35 percent since 2002, 48 percent if you include war costs. Domestic discretionary spending grew by only 8 percent over that period.
  • Funding for FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program has been cut by 53 percent over the last three years. Sequestration would reduce the program’s $100 million FY2013 proposed budget by $5.1 million.
  • At the University of Virginia the Virginia share of total projected Pentagon spending for Fiscal Year 2013, $16 billion, would fund all in-state expenses of a four-year education for each incoming freshman class for the next 46.3 years.

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Read the full report published by the National Priorities Project