With New York and other states now debating the creation of a tax-free period for emergency preparedness supplies to spur public disaster readiness, I decided to check to see how the idea went in two states — Virginia and Louisiana — that tried it for the first time this May.
Though they have no sales figures yet to report, officials from both states say they considered their tax free initiatives successful citing an increased amount of attention to preparedness from both the public and the media. The officials said they are optimistic that the event will only get bigger as it becomes more established in the years to come.
These positive reports should help efforts here in New York and around the nation to implement similar tax-free periods as a way to encourage citizen preparedness. As I wrote about in May, I worked with my local State Assemblyman Jonathan Bing on legislation he introduced in the New York state legislature in May. Under the Bing bill, New Yorkers would be able to buy emergency supplies without paying state sales tax between September 1st-11th (commemorating the period after Hurricane Katrina and the 9/11 attacks) and purchase pre-made emergency “Go-Bags” tax free throughout the month.
In Louisiana, where they created their first ever tax free preparedness weekend at the end of May just before hurricane season began, Veronica Mosgrove, Communications Director for the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said the weekend turned out to be a “good idea”. She said “amazingly there is still a lot of apathy even in Louisiana” about preparedness. So the state was looking for different approaches to communicate and encourage people to prepare as part of the Louisiana’s new “Get A Game Plan” civilian education campaign.
“Anything that inspires people to get prepared is a success,” says Mosgrove, making the point that there is not one silver bullet for preparedness, you’ve got to try a lot of different things to break through.”
In Virginia, where the last week of May, “Hurricane and Flooding Preparedness Week”, was tax-free for the first time this year Department of Emergency Management Public Outreach Coordinator Laura Southard, told me that she was encouraged by their initial foray, though she sees opportunities to improve it next year: ”This was our first year, and we learned we’ve got to do more to get the word out. Some retailers told us they wanted to see more activity, and obviously, we do, too, because it means people are getting their families ready for the season.” But she says that the public responded to the idea as another aspect of their Ready Virginia campaign. ”Saving money usually prompts people to take action.” She says that a similar state tax-free school supplies weekend took a couple years to build awareness among the public so she expects the same dynamic with preparedness.
These positive reports from Louisiana and Virginia would appear to bolster the efforts here in New York and in other areas of the country to implement these tax-free opportunities for their citizens to increase their preparedness.