Aug 9, 2021 - Energy & Environment

FEMA to make $1.2 billion more widely available for disaster resilience

A library building that has burned down in a wildfire.

The burned remains of the Greenville Library destroyed by the Dixie Fire in Greenville, California, U.S., on Aug. 6, 2021. (Maranie Staab/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The Biden administration is moving to direct $1.2 billion toward programs that encourage communities to build resilient infrastructure, and an additional $160 million for flood mitigation grant programs.

Why it matters: Making grant money more widely available, particularly to disadvantaged communities, could help reduce damage from increasingly severe storms in the future. A landmark U.N. climate report released Monday finds that extreme weather events are rapidly becoming more frequent and severe due to human-caused global warming.

Details: The $1.2 billion for the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program in particular provides money to states, communities, tribes and territories to take actions that would make them better able to withstand future extreme weather events.  

  • “It is critical that as we work to address climate change, we are doing so in a way that ensures equity in the delivery of our programs,” FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said in a statement.
  • “By altering the criteria for the FMA and BRIC Programs, we aim to reach more underserved and at-risk communities, which are often disproportionately impacted by climate change, and provide them with the necessary means to make them more resilient for the next disaster," she said.

Context: The announcements of application periods for both programs follows last week's announcement of $3.5 billion, or the largest single-year contribution, to the post-disaster Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

  • This means that a total of nearly $5 billion in new funding is being made available to help communities prepare for extreme weather and climate events.

How it works: FEMA is touting steps it is taking to improve the equitable distribution of funds, in accordance with the administration's focus on environmental justice.

  • According to an agency fact sheet, FEMA altered BRIC's project selection criteria to "enable a significantly higher proportion of benefits for those most in need of investment in climate resiliency."
  • The administration is adjusting scoring criteria used to determine who gets funding so that it considers climate change projections and economically disadvantaged and rural communities.
  • The fact sheet states that FEMA has doubled the number of counties that can receive project development assistance to 20.
  • The flood mitigation program will also incorporate an environmental justice component, specifically the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Social Vulnerability Index as a selection factor in its competitive scoring process. "This means underserved populations will receive more points for projects that benefit their communities," the agency fact sheet states.

What they're saying: "This funding will also help to ensure the advancement of equity in all communities, especially those that are disproportionately at risk from climate change impacts,” said homeland security secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas in a statement.

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