This act may be known and cited as the extreme weather protection act.
The legislature finds that cold storm patterns in the winter months, dangerous heat waves in the summer, and other major weather events present severe public health challenges for individuals and families in Washington.
Moreover, the legislature finds that these challenges are not experienced equally across the population. The elderly, people with disabilities, people with low incomes, farmworkers, people experiencing homelessness, and people who historically were zoned to areas that faced increased environmental impacts during weather events are the most at risk for losing their life or being severely impacted by weather-related ailments.
The legislature finds that during the record heatwave of 2021, the deadliest weather-related disaster in Washington on record, over 100 people in Washington and nearly 800 people in the northwest region lost their lives as a result of inability to access cooling centers or resources and hundreds more visited emergency rooms with heat-related illnesses.
The legislature acknowledges that according to scientists at the Pacific Northwest national laboratory, it is predicted that these severe weather events will happen more frequently because of the changing climate.
The legislature finds that the cost to local governments to provide heating and cooling centers are sometimes insurmountable and intends to provide supplemental resources to local jurisdictions and tribal partners where local resources are not available during extreme weather events.
Subject to the availability of amounts appropriated for this specific purpose, the department shall develop and implement an extreme weather response grant program for the purpose of assisting political subdivisions and federally recognized tribes with the costs of responding to community needs during periods of extremely hot or cold weather or in situations of severe poor air quality from wildfire smoke. The department may adopt rules to administer the extreme weather response grant program.
The department may award grants to political subdivisions and federally recognized tribes for reimbursement of costs in accordance with subsection (3) of this section if the costs were incurred by communities that have demonstrated a lack of local resources to address community needs and were incurred for the benefit of socially vulnerable populations. Social vulnerability refers to the resilience of communities when confronted by external stresses on human health, such as natural or human-caused disasters. Socially vulnerable populations include, but are not limited to, individuals with disabilities, individuals without vehicles, older adults, individuals with low incomes or experiencing homelessness, and individuals with limited English proficiency.
The costs associated with the following activities are eligible for reimbursement under the extreme weather response grant program:
Establishing and operating warming and cooling centers, including rental of equipment, purchase of supplies and water, staffing, and other associated costs;
Transporting individuals to warming and cooling centers;
Purchasing fans or other supplies needed for cooling of congregate living settings;
Providing emergency temporary housing such as rental of a hotel or convention center; and
Other related activities necessary for life safety during a period of extremely hot or cold weather or in situations of severe poor air quality from wildfire smoke as determined by the department.
The department shall, upon request, provide information to political subdivisions and federally recognized tribes regarding the establishment and operation of warming and cooling centers.
Grant funding awarded under this section must be used to supplement, not supplant, other federal, state, and local funding for emergency response.
For purposes of this section, "political subdivision" means any county, city, or town that has established a local organization for emergency management or any joint local organization for emergency management established pursuant to RCW 38.52.070.
The disaster response account is created in the state treasury. Moneys may be placed in the account from legislative appropriations and transfers, federal appropriations, or any other lawful source. Moneys in the account may be spent only after appropriation. Expenditures from the account may be used only for support of state agency and local government disaster response and recovery efforts, including the awarding of grants under section 3 of this act, response by state and local government and federally recognized tribes to the novel coronavirus pursuant to the gubernatorial declaration of emergency of February 29, 2020, and to reimburse the workers' compensation funds and self-insured employers under RCW 51.16.220. During the 2019-2021 and 2021-2023 fiscal biennia, expenditures from the disaster response account may be used for military department operations and to support wildland fire suppression preparedness, prevention, and restoration activities by state agencies and local governments. During the 2017-2019 and 2019-2021 fiscal biennia, the legislature may direct the treasurer to make transfers of moneys in the disaster response account to the state general fund. It is the intent of the legislature that these policies will be continued in subsequent fiscal biennia.