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FEMA makes profound decision to pay for major new feature in schools, hospitals: 'Creating more energy independence'

"We need to adapt the way we are helping communities rebuild post-disaster."

"We need to adapt the way we are helping communities rebuild post-disaster."

Photo Credit: iStock

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has greenlit an adjustment that could not only help save lives but also make communities more climate resilient.

The New York Times reported that hospitals, schools, and other public buildings will qualify for a 75% reimbursement during rebuilding efforts on solar panels and other eco-friendly upgrades, like heat pumps, energy-efficient appliances, and batteries. 

"If you're installing solar panels, you are creating more energy independence," FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell told the outlet.

As detailed by Scientific American, electrical outages that last longer than eight hours are "medically significant," as people with health conditions who depend on battery-powered equipment are unable to charge their devices. 

People can also become vulnerable to hypothermia or heat illness, as extreme temperatures linked to the overheating of our planet have become more frequent and severe. 

The update by FEMA is part of an overhaul as the agency looks to better support Americans after the U.S. hit a record number of billion-dollar disasters in 2023. Policies aimed at helping individuals access recovery funds are expected to go into effect at the end of March. 

According to the Times, a FEMA spokesperson didn't have any further data on which states planned to take advantage of the reimbursement program for public buildings. 

Participation is optional, as FEMA isn't changing its policy of typically reimbursing local governments for 75% of the cost of rebuilding. 

However, research organization RMI pointed to the community benefits that would be available to those who use federal funds for clean-energy upgrades, which also reduce harmful pollution driving the accelerated rise of global temperatures. 

"[It] is taking buildings that have been subject to disaster and making them resilient — so that the next time around, people actually have a place to go during the disaster," Alisa Petersen, the federal policy manager for the United States program team, told the Times. 

"We need to adapt the way we are helping communities rebuild post-disaster," Criswell said in a statement published by The Hill. "Thanks to President Biden's Investing in America agenda and the Inflation Reduction Act, FEMA will now cover the costs of net-zero energy projects since they are the single most effective measure FEMA can take to reduce [heat-trapping gases] and address the climate crisis." 

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