Highlights From The Bridge on November 12th: How The Private Sector Can Help Rebuild The Infrastructure of The Hurricane Impacted Areas

On November 12th at 11 am on WJLA; and 6PM on News Channel 8 Host of The Bridge Jim McCarthy was joined by Dale Morris, Senior Economist, Embassy of the Netherlands, Harriet Tregoning, Former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development, HUD and Alex Kaplan, Head, North America & Senior Vice President, Global Partnerships, Swiss Re. In this third and final installment on Hurricanes Irma, Maria and Harvey the panel will focus on the recovery and emergency response after the hurricanes subsided, and how the private sector can help rebuild and fix the infrastructure of these heavily impacted areas.

Highlights from the Show:

Jim McCarthy: Is there anything we learned from [Irma] that you could share?

Harriet Tregoning: I think the whole hurricane season is a wake-up call, the number of hurricanes that made landfall this year is unprecedented…but we say that about every disaster season. We set a new record every year whether its amount of rain or amount or damage. I think we just have to be prepared for what’s becoming a new normal in terms of the frequency and severity of the weather.

Jim McCarthy: What are your thoughts about Maria?

Dale Morris: Maria is very disturbing, in a lot of ways. This was a storm that hit an area that was not prepared for that kind of event. Folks in Puerto Rico are prepared for certain storms but not one like Maria. There was some infrastructure that was not up to speed, and you have the fact that with Maria the challenge is, how do you take an area that’s not built resiliently and try to increase resiliency so it can prepare itself for next time.

Jim McCarthy: There’s a dichotomy between returning things to the way they were vs the future planning to avoid them. I’d be interested in the panel’s thoughts and what does that mean for policymakers.

Dale Morris: We saw with Katrina, there was a lot of tension with the folks of Louisiana trying to rebuild back in a way that would prepare themselves for the next storm, and federal and state policy sort of impeded that. In Hurricane Sandy, they made changes to create more flexibility to allow the city and state to do that, and you can see a lot of success there. We hope that’s the case that folks in Houston and Florida and Puerto Rico are given the same flexibility so that when the money is spent to repair the damage they think about the incremental cost or benefits to prevent the next storm from being so damaging.

Harriet Tregoning: When there’s a disaster, the federal is enormously large in some cases. These states and localities are never going to see another infusion of federal dollars like what is coming, and it’d be such a tragedy if they didn’t use that one-time infusion to do some future planning to make sure these events are not so harmful the next time they occur.

Jim McCarthy: Alex from an insurance perspective how do you see this dichotomy play out?

Alex Kaplan: I think we all know how to live resiliently.  As a society, we’re obsessed with data yet we choose to ignore it. There is this friction between federal policy and state and local policy. You have these communities that are deeply concerned about economic development and their long-term growth, but the Federal Government ends up writing those very large checks, sometimes compensating for bad decisions. The debate is when you deploy these dollars, how should they be used

Jim McCarthy:  Alex can you to talk about the gap in insurance coverage?

Alex Kaplan: We refer to it at Swiss Re as the protection gap. That’s the difference between the portion which is insured and the portion we refer to as the total economic last. Globally, only about 30% of disasters are insured, so the other 70% falls on the back of society and we see it in the form of emergency-supplementals. One thing that is unequivocally true is the speed of recovery dictates the quality of recovery. If we look back at the previous comments about Hurricane Sandy, and the impacts that had. It took congress 90 days to pass the supplemental, and one year after the storm 75% of the funds had not been dispersed. So it’s really good to have regulations in place to make sure the money is used appropriately, but also having that quick infusion of capital is absolutely essential to making sure these communities and individuals can bounce forward.

For more information about The Bridge, check: http://thebridgeontv.com/ or stream the episode HERE (https://vimeo.com/242119326)

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