FEMA aid helps white homeowners most

by Christopher Flavelle, Bloomberg

Junia Howell, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh whose work deals broadly with race and socioeconomic inequality, once lived in a depressed area of Houston and saw how frequent flooding affected her neighbors. She studied the impact of natural disasters on wealth in the long term and found that extreme weather events are exacerbating inequality—not just because of who the victims are, but also because of how society distributes disaster relief. Thanks to insurance payouts, white, college-educated homeowners who were affected by a large-scale disaster generally saw an increase in their long-term wealth. Most black victims, on the other hand, ended up worse off. Those patterns extend to disaster payments from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which disproportionately help white homeowners in higher-priced areas, according to Howell. “FEMA aid is constructed to restore property,” she says, “not people’s lives.”

“FEMA does not base disaster assistance on race, color, sex, political affiliation, religion, national origin, age, disability, language proficiency, education level or economic status,” says Jessica Nalepa, FEMA’s director of external affairs. “FEMA case workers do their absolute best to work with families after a disaster when many decisions are being made about recovery.”

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New programs nudge homeowners to switch to electric heat pumps

by Steven Nadel, Aceee

From coast to coast, several programs are starting to help homeowners switch from space and water heating fueled by oil, propane, and natural gas to high-efficiency heat pumps powered by clean electricity. Multiple studies have found such conversions will be necessary to achieve deep cuts in carbon dioxide emissions (see here and here), while also saving energy and money for customers. Our recent ACEEE report profiled a few programs, primarily in California and the Northeast, that are promoting electrification and often combining equipment incentives with other energy efficiency measures.

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