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ResiliencePresident Biden’s plan proposed $5 billion in new funding per year for building the country’s resilience to extreme weather and climate-related disasters. The American Jobs Plan identified three sub-categories of resilience work but did not specify how much of the $5 billion each would get. First, a portion of the new funds would go to building the resilience of what everyone would agree is physical infrastructure. For example, the plan would invest in making our electric grid, roads, and rails more robust to extreme weather and rising sea levels.

Each of the remaining two resilience sub-categories in the American Jobs Plan expanded the usual definition of infrastructure. The second sub-category would invest in making food systems as well as community health and hospitals more robust and in rebuilding homes and business structures above existing codes and standards after they have been destroyed or damaged, for example, by a hurricane, fire, or flood. The third resilience sub-category in the American Jobs Plan would invest in restoring lands, forests, wetlands, watersheds, and coastal and ocean resources. These investments in the natural environment would include protection against extreme fires, sea-level rise, and hurricanes.

At $9.4 billion per year, the Common Sense Coalition, now with President Biden’s support, proposes significantly more resilience funding than the American Jobs Plan. It does not break out subcategories for that investment. PSC proposes $5.6 billion for “resiliency and nature-based infrastructure.”

Senate Republicans call for investing in the resilience of our infrastructure to extreme weather and rising ocean levels with the new spending they propose in the categories discussed above. They do not consider the rest of the resilience investments proposed in the other plans to be infrastructure.

The Case for a Big Investment

Supporters argue that the failure to invest adequately in the resilience of our transportation infrastructure has disrupted service and made travel unsafe. Insufficient resilience funding has also resulted, they argue, in severe damage to our transportation infrastructure which has led to increased maintenance and operating costs. President Biden argues that we must “make our infrastructure more resilient in the face of increasingly severe floods, wildfires, hurricanes, and other risks.” The Common Sense Coalition and the Problem Solvers Caucus agree.

Supporters also argue that people of color and working class individuals are more likely to live in areas prone to extreme weather impacts like flooding. By focusing the new resilience investments in these vulnerable communities, they argue, we can address this fundamental unfairness while also creating jobs.

The Case Against

Not infrastructure.

The Evidence

A 2017 General Accounting Office report found that extreme weather and fire events have cost the federal government an average of $35 billion per year over the previous ten years, $2.8 billion (8%) of which per year was for “maintenance and repairs to federal facilities and federally managed lands, infrastructure, and waterways.”