Extreme Heat Emergency Act has bipartisan support, but Congress still hasn’t acted

By Kirsten Dorman
Published: Wednesday, August 16, 2023 - 3:48pm
Updated: Wednesday, August 16, 2023 - 3:49pm

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Yellowed leaves silhouetted in the sun.
Chelsey Heath/KJZZ
Yellowing citrus tree leaves from the heat in the West Valley on Aug. 16, 2023.

From Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego to state and federal lawmakers, leaders across Arizona have been urging Congress to pass a bill that would give the Federal Emergency Management Agency the power to declare a new kind of emergency – extreme heat.

In 2022, a record 425 Arizonans died of heat-related causes. After this summer’s record-breaking heat, an even higher number of deaths is expected in 2023 – and not just in Arizona.

“We’re seeing those trends in many places across the country, which is something that we definitely need to address,” said Ladd Keith, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona.

According to Keith: “Heat isn’t something that we even really addressed from a government perspective at a wider scale until the last couple of years, even.”

Despite bipartisan support for the Extreme Heat Emergency Act, Congress still hasn’t acted.

“That would really open up the door for funding and responses,” Keith said.

Because it’s doubtful that future summers will be any cooler, Keith said he hopes to see Congress act soon to better prepare the country.

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