Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a briefing on climate resiliency Monday as the Biden administration announces $1 billion investment for climate-resistant infrastructure to combat hurricanes, floods, drought, extreme heat, and wildfires, at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Photo by Cristobal Herrera-Ulashkevich/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 1 (UPI) -- Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to South Florida on Monday to announce more than $1 billion in federal funding to improve infrastructure nationwide to increase resiliency to excessive heat and climate change.
"Today our administration is investing more than $1 billion through FEMA to fund climate-resilient projects in 343 cities, towns and counties around our nation," Harris said after meeting with leaders at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
The White House unveiled the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities Program earlier Monday saying it will benefit all 50 states, three territories and Washington, D.C. The White House said the $1 billion investment is double last year's funding for climate-resilient infrastructure and credited the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
Harris referenced deadly flooding in Missouri and Kentucky, drought and wildfires in California and heat waves across the nation as she outlined the administration's investment during her speech at Florida International University.
"For years we debated the impact that climate change could have on our communities, on our country and our world," Harris said. "Today we know the impact."
"Last year, our nation experienced a total of 20 climate-driven extreme weather events, which each caused more than $1 billion damage," Harris said. "The president and I have a duty to act, not only after disaster strikes, but before disaster strikes."
The $1 billion investment allows local governments to apply for grants for projects to protect against the effects of climate change.
Harris said the administration is already partnering with Kern County in California to build underwater storage to prevent water contamination during droughts.
She also said the administration will help upgrade the power grid in Austin, Texas, to keep air conditioning running during heat waves and will spend $50 million in Miami to protect low-lying neighborhoods from sea level rise and storm surge.
Harris promised the grants will create jobs and will mostly go toward low income communities without resources to rebuild.
"[The] climate crisis has exposed and intensified generations of economic environmental inequities present in communities across our nation," Harris said. "Our administration remains committed to addressing those inequities through environmental justice."
While Harris discussed investing in infrastructure to live with climate change, closing her remarks with a reminder of the administration's "ambitious goals" to fight the causes of the "climate crisis."
"Our nation will cut our greenhouse emissions in half by no later than 2030," Harris said. "And by no later than 2050, we will reach net zero emissions."
Earlier Monday, the White House issued a statement saying the administration "is taking action to make communities across America more resilient to climate change, especially as millions of Americans live under heat advisories, wildfires threaten communities big and small."
Officials said more than 100 million residents nationwide have been experiencing drought while others have faced catastrophic flooding -- including in recent days in Kentucky, where more than three dozen people have died amid rising floodwaters.
"These investments improve wildfire response and reduce the overall loss of infrastructure and critical resources while prioritizing assistance to underserved communities," the White House said.
"This summer, as directed by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission was established, gathering federal and non-federal members to formulate and deliver policy recommendations to Congress for wildland fire prevention, mitigation, suppression and management."
The White House has taken various actions to better protect Americans from a excessive heat -- including the new website HEAT.gov, which provides information on assistance with heat-related challenges.
Officials said the administration is also coordinating federal efforts on flood resilience and ensuring that federal investments include safety standards for flooding and sea-level rise.
FEMA has launched a website for purchasers to evaluate property-level flood risk and highlights best practices for states requiring flood risk disclosures during real estate transactions.