U.S. Representative

Dennis A. Ross

Proudly Serving Florida's 15th Congressional District

Ross Opinion Pieces


Natural Disaster Recovery: Prevention is Key

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Washington, June 19, 2015 | Joni Shockey (202-503-8755) | comments

Featured in Sunshine State News.

The extra trips to the hardware store for plywood and nails to board up windows.‭ ‬The stocked pantries and cupboards with canned goods and water bottles.‭ ‬The spare batteries and flashlights stashed around the house.‭ ‬The safety drills to take shelter in hallways and bathtubs.‭ ‬These are all-too-familiar precautions we Floridians practice when hurricane season rolls around.‭ ‬Because,‭ ‬it is all about prevention.‭

As June‭ ‬1‭ ‬started the official‭ ‬2015‭ ‬hurricane season,‭ ‬we are reminded of the dark wreckage to our Sunshine State caused by Hurricanes Andrew,‭ ‬Charley,‭ ‬Jean,‭ ‬Frances,‭ ‬Ivan and Wilma.‭ ‬Although Florida has been blessed in not having suffered through a major hurricane in nearly a decade,‭ ‬we must not become complacent in our proactive defenses against these natural disasters.‭ ‬Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy should rattle us at our cores,‭ ‬knowing full well that hurricanes can fiercely gain speed and power before we have a chance to properly protect our families,‭ ‬homes and communities.‭ ‬Prevention is the key to this protection.‭ 

In order to help Floridians,‭ ‬and all Americans,‭ ‬better prepare for natural disasters and prevent their destruction,‭ ‬I proudly introduced HR‭ ‬2230,‭ ‬the‭ ‬Disaster Savings Accounts‭ (‬DSA‭) ‬Act of‭ ‬2015.‭ ‬This bill will allow individuals to proactively save pre-tax dollars for use toward disaster preparation and recovery expenses.‭ 

The DSA Act will establish a new tax-preferred savings account for the purpose of fortifying residential property‭ (‬i.e.,‭ ‬houses,‭ ‬condos or apartments‭) ‬in preparation for an impending natural‭ ‬disaster and,‭ ‬in the aftermath,‭ ‬for rebuilding and damage expenses.‭ ‬The DSA would not only help in the recovery from hurricanes,‭ ‬but also from tornadoes,‭ ‬floods,‭ ‬sinkholes and other defined natural disasters.‭ ‬Homeowners and renters will be allowed to contribute up to‭ ‬$5,000‭ ‬annually in pre-tax dollars to be used for DSA-qualified expenses,‭ ‬and any balance would roll over at the end of each year.

In addition to traditional expenses associated with disaster mitigation and repair of a residence,‭ ‬DSA accounts will allow homeowners and renters to utilize DSA funds for uninsured personal casualty losses for their homes.‭ ‬This process will help mitigate,‭ ‬and even prevent altogether,‭ ‬insurance premium increases in instances where available DSA funds for smaller-value damages would allow homeowners to avoid tapping into insurance coverage for damage repairs.‭ 

This legislation will provide individuals the ability to use saved funds for disaster prevention to purchase items that increase the safety of their homes,‭ ‬such as cemented-fortified walls,‭ ‬storm shutters and generators.‭ ‬This type of savings will help reduce federal costs to taxpayers because every $1 spent on mitigation can save up to $4 in future disaster recovery spending.‭ ‬Furthermore,‭ ‬the ‭DSA Act incentivizes the private sector to build partnerships with individuals who proactively protect their homes by creating instalment programs for these purchased items.‭ 

We may be unable to fully predict when and how devastating natural disasters might strike,‭ ‬but the DSA Act's common-sense solution will give Americans the utilities and opportunities needed to prevent these disasters from harming their families and homes,‭ ‬while also giving them more control over their money.‭ ‬ 

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