Conway, South Carolina — Pete Buttigieg knows he can't stop natural disasters in their path, but he has a plan on how to prepare for and recover from them. On Tuesday, the South Bend mayor released a federal disaster relief proposal soon after he volunteered in Conway, which was battered by Hurricane Florence last year.
Buttigieg released the plan during a two-day swing through the Palmetto State, where he also held town halls and opened campaign offices. In the policy rollout speech, Buttigieg also highlighted his experience as a mayor in dealing with disaster preparedness.
"When you put a mayor in the White House, what you're going to get is somebody who knows about the need to take the resources of the federal government and combine them with the appreciation for what works on the ground," he said.
Buttigieg, the first presidential candidate to release a full federal disaster relief plan, has talked about his own experience with flooding in South Bend and how it relates to climate change. And in his plan, he noted that South Bend has had a 500-year flood and a 1,000-year flood in a span of just 18 months. Hurricane Florence brought heavy flooding to Conway last year, and the South Carolina Emergency Management Division estimated in a release last year that Hurricane Florence damaged more than 1,500 homes.
In his first 100 days as president, Buttigieg says he'll open a disaster commission to improve coordination between local communities affected by disasters and federal agencies. The commission would be tasked with collecting data and making it easier to fill out the multiple disaster relief applications. The commission would also be charged with auditing reviews and streamlining funding for survivors.
Buttigieg also wants to see communities build a "culture of resilience" to "proactively prepare" for the next disaster. He proposes funding volunteer programs and supporting education efforts in community preparedness in order to engage more community members and to empower local communities to plan better for when weather catastrophes strike their community. Specifically, the plan notes that Buttigieg would support an increased budget to FEMA's Individual and Community Preparedness Division.
The plan also outlines that a Buttigieg administration would protect FEMA's Disaster Relief Fund and to bolster the number of FEMA trained disaster employees. The plan indicated that FEMA should not "be treated as a way to circumvent congressional intent."