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Witt calls for disaster-preparedness legislation

James Lee Witt, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the current co-chair of ProtectingAmerica.org is urging a subcommittee to the House Financial Services Committee to move quickly to enact legislation that would help American families and communities be better prepared for and protected from the devastation caused by massive natural catastrophes such as earthquakes and hurricanes.

“A catastrophic event, whether an earthquake striking one of our great American cities, or a massive hurricane making landfall near any of the metropolitan areas from New York to Houston, would cause such enormous damage that our economy would be stunned, private resources quickly depleted, and an immediate federal bailout of hundreds of billions of dollars could potentially be required,” Witt stated.

“The American public has lost its appetite for bailouts. Clearly the nation, our families and our communities would be better served by a program that uses private insurer dollars to pre-fund coverage for the eventuality of the next massive hurricane or devastating earthquake. There is no place in the country that is immune from catastrophic natural events, and the stakes are higher than ever. Major cities along the coasts, and throughout the West and Midwest, are threatened by devastating earthquakes or hurricanes. The human, physical and economic toll that such events would take would be unfathomable.”

“To put it simply, the status quo is not acceptable. There is an urgent need for a comprehensive and integrated program that strengthens America’s financial infrastructure, improves mitigation and readiness to prepare and protect our families and communities before and during catastrophe, and creates a privately-funded backstop that assures that resources will be available to rebuild, repair and recover as quickly as possible.”

Witt testified before the House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity and Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance, and Government Sponsored Enterprises in support of HR 2555, the Homeowners’ Defense Act, a bill sponsored by Rep. Ron Klein (D-Fla.) and more than 70 cosponsors from across the nation.

The bill would provide more protection at lower cost for consumers and provide additional capacity and stability to the market.

The bill would also mandate and help finance enhanced mitigation and prevention through better land use planning, establishment and enforcement of stronger building codes and better education training and equipment for first responders.

An earlier version of the act passed the House of Representatives in the last session of Congress by a bipartisan margin of 258-155.

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