The US government provides federal funds to states to help with disaster relief. This much hasn't changed under the Trump administration. In fact, in 2018, Ben Carson's Department of Housing and Urban Development launched a new program rewarding $28 billion dollars in financial support relating to natural disasters.
Curiously, that press release was taken down a few days after the New York Times reported on it — specifically, on its favoritism towards red states that still won't formally admit that climate change exists:
The money is distributed according to a formula benefiting states most affected by disasters in 2015, 2016 and 2017. That formula favors Republican-leaning states along the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts, which were hit particularly hard during that period.
Texas is in line for more than $4 billion, the most of any state. The next largest sums go to Louisiana ($1.2 billion), Florida ($633 million), North Carolina ($168 million) and South Carolina ($158 million), all of which voted Republican in the 2016 presidential election.
The other states getting funding are West Virginia, Missouri, Georgia and California, the only state getting money that voted Democratic in the presidential race of 2016.
Of course, these states have to submit proposals explaining why they need these funds. According to the Times, the proposal from Texas refers to things like “changing coastal conditions,” while South Carolina says that three major storms in four years have caused “destabilizing effects and unpredictability.” But none of them actually, explicitly mention climate change — except for Louisiana, in an appendix reference on the final page. Even the HUD avoided "climate change" and "global warming" when it announced the rules for the proposals, leaning more on "changing environmental conditions."
One HUD official that spoke with the Times explained this discrepancy as a deliberate choice of "picking your battles" in good faith. The argument here is essentially that there are some places in the country where citizens and government officials alike simply won't even talk to you if you acknowledge the existence of climate change. So in order to help those people — and to help them help themselves — you need to meet them where they are, and appease them in a way that will get through to them.
Still, this whole situation is undeniably frustrating, and serves as a perfect microcosm of our national disparities in federal funding, taxes, and local identity. Studies have shown that Blue States receive fewer benefits from their federal taxes than Red States — for every dollar that New Jersey spends in federal taxes, for example, it gets 61 cents in benefits, whereas Wyoming gets $1.11 back on every dollar. On average, red states are twice as dependent on the federal government than blue states, even though blue states pay more taxes, and even though red state ideology is famously opposed to taxation and federal consolidation.
This isn't to say that we shouldn't be helping the people in our country who are suffering from climate change. But there's clearly something wrong with letting their climate denying representatives lead on environmental policy and federal funding as they continue to reap the benefits that the rest of us have given them, without any compromise or consequence.
Conservative States Seek Billions to Brace for Disaster. (Just Don’t Call It Climate Change.) [Christopher Flavelle / New York Times]
Image: Texas Military Department / Flickr (CC 2.0)