Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is being excoriated for opposing federal assistance meant to rebuild homes repeatedly destroyed by storms.
“If people want to rebuild in an area which will be devastated by the next storm, they’re certainly not going to get federal assistance from my administration to do that,” Sanders said Wednesday at CNN’s town hall on climate change.
"If people want to rebuild in an area which will be devastated by the next storm, they're certainly not going to get federal assistance from my administration." -Sen. Sanders on changing FEMA rules to spur a retreat from properties suffering repeated losses. #ClimateTownHall pic.twitter.com/BC47QBZupm
— CNN (@CNN) September 5, 2019
“We have the absurd situation where FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] will only pay to repair a facility or a piece of infrastructure where it was before it was destroyed. That’s pretty stupid,” the Vermont senator said. “I mean if it was destroyed once and you rebuild it, it’s destroyed twice, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to put it there again.”
“So would people in coastal communities, [who] have a house right on the beach, would they have to move?” CNN host Anderson Cooper asked.
“Well, I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to rebuild that house so that it is, you know, knocked down again in the next storm,” Sanders responded.
Sanders noted scientific predictions that parts of Miami, Fla. and Charleston, S.C. could fall underwater at some point in the future, adding that as president he would do his best “through carrots and sticks at the federal level” to encourage people to move away from areas frequently threatened by hurricanes.
Critics expressed outrage at what they said was a dismissive attitude toward storm-battered communities, with some pointing out that residents would like to move but cannot afford to do so.
“Many people in repetitive-loss properties would be thrilled to move, but are trapped where they are because no one will buy their property, so their only option is to keep taking money from the NFIP [National Flood Insurance Program] to rebuild,” Raw Story reporter Matthew Chapman wrote in a tweet.
Hey Bernie, are you prepared to buy them out instead?
Many people in repetitive-loss properties would be thrilled to move, but are trapped where they are because no one will buy their property, so their only option is to keep taking money from the NFIP to rebuild. https://t.co/v42Jg9tYWH
— Matthew Chapman (@fawfulfan) September 6, 2019
Other critics pointed to Puerto Rico as an example of a community repeatedly hit by storms, and some criticized CNN, saying the network’s tweet took Sanders’s quote out of context.
I completely understand what he’s saying, but for some people they don’t have much choice in the matter. Having said that, while I’m not a Bernie fan, this is a poor quote to take out of context. I presume he’s talking about people who CAN move inland but choose not to. https://t.co/w07ltYL4z7
— Charles Gaba (@charles_gaba) September 6, 2019
Puerto Rico… https://t.co/gIqWTSk4V3
— Jake Snider (@jakehsnider) September 6, 2019