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VOA Tuesday September, 19, 2017
Floods, Fires, Other Disasters Add Stress to US State Budgets
A summer of natural catastrophes, from epic hurricanes to scorching wildfires, has exposed another peril in disaster-prone states: How to pay for the rescues, repairs and rebuilding. The combined tab from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma is expected to hit $200 billion or more. While the federal government is expected to pay most of that, the affected state and local governments have to start paying for recovery now and eventually could be on the hook for tens of millions of dollars or more. States vary on how prepared they are to weather such costs. Florida and South Carolina, both hit by Hurricane Irma, are among the dozen or so states that do not have dedicated disaster funds and opt to cover the expenses after the fact, potentially by dipping into reserves or shifting money from other state agencies. Experts say such pay-as-you-go disaster funding can be risky. Add an economic downturn when reserves are low and budgets are tight, and state and local officials could easily find themselves struggling to pay for recovery and rebuilding. Even putting money into a dedicated disaster fund may not be enough. In Montana, where wildfires raged across the state this summer, threatening hundreds of homes and destroying a historic lodge in Glacier National Park, the firefighting costs so far have exceeded the amount set aside in a special disaster fund by $20 million...Read more
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