The waters are slowly receding from the most powerful storm to hit our nation in years. Hurricane Ida flooded many roads, damaged homes, took down trees and power lines, and left more than 144,000 Mississippi homes and businesses temporarily without power. First responders performed water rescues in Harrison, Hancock, and Jackson counties. Tragically, two people died and 10 more were injured in George County after Highway 26 caved in. Despite all of this destruction, we can be grateful that Mississippi was spared the worst of this hurricane. Soon after the storm passed, federal responders shifted their focus to Louisiana and the Northeast, where storm-induced floods and tornadoes have claimed dozens of lives.
Hard Infrastructure Protects Mississippians
Infrastructure projects have played an important role in mitigating storm damage. Since Hurricane Katrina, our nation has invested billions of dollars to improve drainage systems, flood walls, and levees, which failed catastrophically during Katrina but have not broken since. The Army Corps of Engineers has shored up pumping stations, which are critical to removing floodwaters after a storm. We have also invested in backup power systems in case our power grid fails because of storm-induced floods, and more resources have been devoted to storm preparation.
Congress is now considering a bipartisan infrastructure bill that would build significantly on this progress. I recently voted in favor of this bill because of the tremendous good it would do for Mississippi – funding new roads, bridges, rail, ports, aviation, water projects, broadband deployment, and more.
The infrastructure package would provide $17 billion for projects undertaken by the Army Corps of Engineers. This would include $808 million for the Mississippi Rivers and Tributaries system, $251 million for flood and coastal emergencies, and $2.5 billion for flood mitigation projects in inland communities. The bill would also invest $11 billion to secure our electric grid so that fewer homes lose power because of extreme weather. Additionally, it would provide $3.3 billion for roads and highways in Mississippi, allowing for easier evacuations and relief efforts in the future. These long-term investments in physical infrastructure would improve protections for Mississippi as we continue to face the threat of extreme weather.
Recent Bills Improve Forecasting, Compensation for Homeowners
Congress has also advanced several measures that have made us more prepared for hurricanes. I authored the Commercial Engagement through Ocean Technology (CENOTE) Act, which President Trump signed into law in 2018. This created a framework for ocean data sharing between the federal government, the U.S. Navy, private industry, and universities. This collaboration is now helping experts predict hurricane intensity more accurately, which allows residents to make more informed decisions about whether to evacuate. I also authored legislation to improve the accuracy of damage assessments so that homeowners can be fully compensated for wind and water damage.
Flood insurance has been a critical lifeline for Mississippians facing the constant threat of storms. To keep this lifeline available, I am cosponsoring legislation to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program for five years. This bipartisan bill would protect policyholders from high premium hikes by capping annual interest increases. I have also introduced legislation to improve training for flood insurance agents so that customers can be sure they are receiving accurate information. In addition, I have put forward legislation to allow small business owners to repurpose some of their flood insurance fees to help pay for flood mitigation on their property. As Congress returns to session this month, I will continue pushing for strategic investments that will help our state get through the storms of tomorrow.