Are We Ready for More Natural Disasters?

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Arthur, Cristobal, Isaias, Josephine — familiar names in this year’s hurricane season that again threatens marine businesses along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, and calling attention to the advocacy efforts of the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas to see the Providing Resources for Emergency Preparedness and Resilient Enterprises Act become a reality.

Talk about a need for legislation: As you read this today, potential tropical storm systems are building power and heading west to make potential landfall in Central America and the U.S.

Indeed, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is already on record as the first season in which nine tropical storms formed before August 1. Officially, a total of 13 tropical depressions, eleven tropical storms, and two hurricanes have already developed this season.

And there’s no doubt about potential damages. In late May, Bertha caused over $200 million in damage when it made landfall on the East Coast. A week later, Cristobal caused $675 million in damage across in the U.S., Mexico and Guatemala. Then, in July, Fay slammed tropical storm force winds across Delaware, New Jersey and coastal New York — $400 million more in damage.

Hanna made landfall in South Texas as a Category 1 hurricane, leaving at least $500 million in damage. Isaias impacted parts of Florida, made landfall in North Carolina as a strong Category 1 hurricane and triggering widespread power outages and destructive tornados causing $4.2 billion in damage from the Mid-Atlantic to New England.

The PREPARE Act was introduced in Congress by Representatives Joe Morelle (D-NY), Jack Bergman (R-MI), Jared Golden (D-ME) and Pete Stauber (R-MN) last month. This bipartisan legislation aims to give small businesses access to capital to invest in disaster-resilient infrastructure improvements. Seeing the bill passed is a top priority for MRAA, according to government relations manager Adam Fortier-Brown.

It’s not just the concern about tropical storms and hurricanes that’s motivating MRAA. Fortier-Brown explains the broader view: “There’s no question natural disasters across the nation are becoming more common and severe, devastating communities and small businesses as a result. Looking ahead, as small businesses drive our nation’s economic recovery, they must be equipped to protect themselves from the existential threat that disasters pose.”

The PREPARE Act will give marine retailers an important tool to invest in the modern infrastructure that can protect their organization and, therefore, continue to fuel job growth and prosperity in communities across the nation.

While there is no specific data breakout of boat dealerships, the need for passage of this bill becomes even more understandable when one reviews the FEMA report that cites more than 40 percent of small businesses never reopen following a disaster.

Strong mitigation efforts by businesses now will be the key to resiliency in coastal communities going forward. That said, it will take a determined effort by MRAA and involvement of the whole marine industry to see the PREPARE Act become law.

After all, we’re talking about getting Congress to take action . . . you know, those lawmakers that couldn’t agree on the date for a New Year’s Eve party! 

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