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Groups Propose Dedicated Federal Disaster Recovery Fund

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Michael Loccisano, Getty Images

Marine businesses, fisheries and recreation interest are planning to lobby Washington representatives for a new way to fund natural disasters. During a teleconference Wednesday, the groups said they were particularly hard hit because promised federal disaster aid was reduced by half, forcing states through out the country to compete for the remaining resources.

Nonprofit group U.S. Strong says a study they released in October finds that New Jerseyans alone will be left holding the bag in paying for an estimated $8 to $13 million dollars in Sandy-related loses that won’t be covered by the federal government or insurance companies.

U.S. Strong Director Lauren Townsend said they’ll be lobbying Washington lawmakers for the creation of an extreme weather relief and protection fund. “We’re focused on creating a dedicated federal fund that will help communities to stave off big time damage when an extreme weather event happens,” explained Townsend.

New Jersey’s Mid Atlantic Fisheries Management Council Representative Chris Zeman said “fundamentally this is about getting people’s lives back to normal as soon as possible after a natural disaster.” “That’s in everybody’s best interest, he continued. “She (Townsend) thinks we should have that discussion now, not after the next Superstorm,” he explained.

Cindy Zipf of Clean Ocean Action said extreme weather events like hurricanes, flooding, tornadoes and even wildfires are happening at a greater frequency due to climate change so it’s time to get proactive in finding a sustainable funding source to help with recovery and rebuilding efforts. “We must have a conversation about planning for the future and planning for resiliency and stewardship in light of the fact that climate change is occurring and sea level rise is happening,” explained Zipf.

Tom Fote, the Legislative Chair of the Jersey Coast Angler’s Association said Sandy had a huge economic impact on New Jersey’s fisheries and boat building industry which is estimated at over $4 billion dollars. Fote cites the need for research following Sandy and other natural disaster to determine its impact on the bays, the estuaries and the nursery areas. However, Fote said research like this has not been done because no funding is provided for it.

In fact Fote lamented that when New York and New Jersey’s fishing interest finally got disaster aid it was a total of $5 million dollars they had to split. He said that only allows them to provide small grants to marinas and marine-related businesses that sustained damage.

In a press release provided by U.S. Strong, the proposed Federal Extreme Weather Relief and Protection Fund would:

1. Be a dedicated federal fund to help respond to, and protect communities from, extreme weather events. These resources should be sufficient to meet today’s extreme weather challenges and be accessible for quick distribution. A dedicated fund will avoid the distinct possibility of a cantankerous congressional debate over whether to appropriate emergency relief to the next extreme weather event.

 

2. Support emergency response and a range of preparedness efforts to better protect vulnerable communities from extreme weather now and into the future. There should never be a doubt that the federal government has the resources it needs to respond to emergencies stemming from extreme weather. This country must dramatically increase and prioritize investments into storm preparedness, which continues to be severely underfunded.

 

3. Raise revenue fairly so we don’t hurt middle-class taxpayers or small businesses. The fund should not rely on property, income, sales or corporate business taxes – nor should it rely on deficit spending. Congressional members should call for a debate with all revenue sources “on the table”. Many organizations and campaigns, such as US Strong, are calling for a financial cost to emitting carbon pollution to be one of the revenue sources that are considered. We urge you to consider this and other options.

Surfrider Foundation John Weber said just like U.S. Strong is proposing rethinking funding disaster relief, he said they would like people to rethink the Jersey Shore so they’ve set up a web site www.rethinkthejerseyshore.com.

Paula Ghirardelli of the New Jersey Federation of Sportsmen’s Club, Captain Paul Eidman of Reel Therapy Fly and Tackle Fishing Charters Scotty Franklin and Adelaide (Scottie) Franklin of Main One Marina in Avon By the Sea also participated in the teleconference. Get more details at www.USStrong.us

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