As Florida and the East Coast brace for what could be a killer Category 4 hurricane, a review by Paratus Business News found that most states annually threatened by severe weather offer no incentives for citizens to prepare.
Between insurance, property damage, business disruption and the loss of tourism revenue, tropical storms and hurricanes cost states and businesses billions of dollars every year.
Yet, the real damage is the personal impact on millions of families.
Specially incentivized preparedness programs, such as sales tax holidays, could help families avoid panic shopping before a storm by encouraging residents to shop in advance of the storm season.
Obviously, prepared families have an easier time with evacuation planning as opposed to unprepared families. Moreover, prepared families will have a greater ability to survive the recovery effort.
For those that are unprepared, the costs in time and money after a storm can be daunting. Damaged homes (sometimes leading to homelessness), loss of refrigerated food, transportation, and days or weeks without power costs Americans families millions of dollars a year.
Given that more than 160 million Americans live close enough to hurricane zones to suffer damage from severe tropical weather, the loss to individual families should be considered by national, state and local governments.
Instead of spending money on everyday items that drive economies, families are forced to redirect their income and resources to recovery and replacement, such as finding food, water and fuel.
Eve Gonzales, author of “Major Disasters Lessons Learned,” has watched unprepared families spend days at government relief centers after a hurricane waiting for supplies all while suffering from hunger or dehydration.
She described one scene where people waited in 100 degree weather for a National Guard unit to provide food and water after a storm. The unit had no supplies, and when Gonzales’ disaster relief charity arrived, she handed out what she could.
“People were pushing and shoving their way to the front of the line, while others were screaming and crying,” she wrote. “There were many young children whose parents stood in the sun all day.”
Hurricanes are not the only devastating storms Americans face.
When ice storms and tornadoes are taken into account, the number of families and states impacted is increased exponentially. According to one Accuweather report, winter storms alone annually cost the nation billions of dollars.
Unfortunately, while leaders in many states recognize the benefit of encouraging preparedness, most states simply prefer to roll the dice with their constituents’ lives.
How can states help citizens prepare for emergencies? One effective method is the state sales tax “holiday.”
Nearly all voters and government leaders support the use of state and federal tax laws to encourage positive behaviors that benefit society. Incentives that promote home ownership, business investments, charitable donations, among others, enjoy near universal support.
For most shoppers, state sales taxes range from less than 2 percent to more than 7 percent, but local option sales taxes can push the overall rate to 9 percent or higher in some areas.
The elimination of the sales tax for these days will raise awareness and drive consumers to plan for preparedness shopping. And while all of the preparedness sales tax holidays have already taken place this year, it is not too late for citizens to call their local, state and federal government leaders to demand assistance with preparedness.
Nor is it too late for the survival industry to plan for next year.
For instance, Virginia’s sales tax holiday in August included products like chainsaws and duct tape, but not dehydrated food. This is a business opportunity.
Bloggers can certainly schedule posts offering advice and direction that can drive readership to their site. Retailers, of course, need to find ways to compete with the state incentives, or complement them by offering products not covered.
These states offer sales tax incentives to encourage family emergency preparedness:
|Alabama||Feb. 26 – 28, 2016*||Severe weather preparation|
|Louisiana||May 28 – 29, 2016*||Hurricane preparation|
|Louisiana||Sept. 2 – 4, 2016*||Firearms, ammo, hunting supplies|
|Mississippi||Sept. 2 – 4, 2016*||Hunting season|
|Texas||April 23 – 25, 2016||Emergency preparation|
|Virginia||Aug. 5 – 7, 2016*||Hurricane preparation and school supplies|
* Annual sales tax holidays. Source: Sales Tax Institute.