By MATTHEW DALY
WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris called climate change an “immediate” and “urgent” crisis on Monday as she detailed more than $1 billion in federal spending to respond to disasters such as flooding. killing sprees in Kentucky and wildfires ravaging his home state of California. .
During a visit to Miami, Harris announced a series of grants available to states to help communities across the country prepare for and respond to climate-related disasters.
Visiting the National Hurricane Center ahead of the grant announcement, Harris said disasters such as the Kentucky floods and the California wildfires show “how immediate, present and urgent it is” to deal with the extreme weather conditions in the United States and around the world.
“Climate change has become a climate crisis, and a threat has now become a reality,” she said in a speech at Florida International University.
Harris cited deadly flooding that swept through Kentucky and Missouri, “washing away entire neighborhoods,” killing at least 35 people, including children. At least two people have been killed in a northern California wildfire that was part of several blazes threatening thousands of homes across the western United States. Hot, gusty weather and thunderstorms threatened to heighten the danger as the fires continue to grow,
“The devastation is real. The evil is real. The impact is real,” Harris said. “And we are witnessing it in real time.”
In 2021, the United States experienced 20 weather-related disasters that each caused more than $1 billion in damage, Harris said, citing a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report. There were about six such disasters a year in the 1990s.
“The frequency accelerated in a relatively short period of time,” Harris said. “The science is clear. Extreme weather will only get worse and the climate crisis will only accelerate.
The White House is leading a government-wide response to climate disasters that “recognizes the urgency of this moment and our ability to do something about it,” Harris said, adding that leaders like herself and President Joe Biden “have a duty to act”. , not only after the disaster, but before the disaster, and that is why we are here today.
The billion-dollar grant program announced by Harris doubles spending over last year for extreme weather defense programs across the country. Biden announced last month that the administration would once again double spending in the budget year that begins in October, spending $2.3 billion to help communities cope with soaring temperatures through programs administered by FEMA, the Department of Health and Human Services, and other agencies.
The Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities, or BRIC, program supports states, local communities, tribes, and territories in projects to reduce climate-related risks and prepare for natural disasters such as floods and storms. forest fires. The program is funded by FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund and the bipartisan Infrastructure Act Biden signed last year.
“Communities across our nation are experiencing first hand the devastating effects of climate change and the extreme weather events that follow – more energetic hurricanes with deadlier storm surges, increased flooding and a wildfire season that has become a year-long threat,” said FEMA Director Deanne Criswell.
The grants announced Monday “will help ensure that our most vulnerable communities are not left behind, with hundreds of millions of dollars ultimately going directly to the communities most in need,” she said.
A total of $1 billion will be made available through the BRIC program, and another $160 million will be offered for flood mitigation assistance, officials said.
Jacksonville, Florida was among the cities that received money under the BRIC program last year. The city received $23 million for flood mitigation and stormwater infrastructure. Jacksonville, Florida’s largest city, 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 South Florida Water Management District in Miami-Dade County received $50 million for flood mitigation and pump station repairs. The money will protect low-lying neighborhoods from rising sea levels and storm surges, Harris said.
Kern County, California received nearly $40 million for underground water storage to provide access to clean water during droughts, while Austin, Texas received millions to upgrade its power grid “so homes, businesses and places of worship can continue to have power through summer and winter storms,” Harris said.
The subsidy program is part of a series of actions by the Biden administration to reduce heat-related illnesses and protect public health, including a proposed workplace heat standard.