Earlier this summer, representatives from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), state and municipal governments, the construction industry, first responders, and insurance companies gathered in Washington with one common focus: how funds will be accessed under FEMA’s new Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities
(BRIC) Program, and when will those funds be available? The short answer is that the application process has not yet been finalized. But multiple forces in Washington are working on ensuring that funds begin to flow beginning in 2020. And a great deal came out of the meeting that provides some early guidance
A little background: The Disaster Relief and Recovery Act, or DRRA, was passed in October, 2018, with a goal of building “the nation’s capacity for the next catastrophic event”. The BRIC Program is a new fund, created through the Disaster Relief Fund as a six-percent set aside from estimated Post-disaster grant expenditures. FEMA representatives are quick to point out that this is not the first funding that the Federal government has committed to mitigation efforts, but it is potentially by far the largest amount earmarked for efforts to prevent damage from cataclysmic storms, rather than provide restoration efforts after damage has occurred.
Last week’s meeting was co-sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and the Buildstrong Coalition. Buildstrong is a coalition of influential organizations, including the AIA, IBHS, NIBS, State Farm, Liberty Mutual and USAA who are working closely with FEMA as well as potential applicants for
BRIC funding to ensure that the “full potential” of the disaster program is realized.
Some key points from the meeting:
· FEMA received more than 5000 comments when it asked for stakeholder engagement on the proposed BRIC program. The agency is currently processing this feedback, before the application processes for the program are finalized.
· FEMA understands the need for “capacity building” on the state and local level to help ensure that the application process does not become so burdensome that potential applicants give up in the face of bureaucratic complexity.
· The current on-line materials to help with the applications for mitigation funds dates from 2015. FEMA in in the process of updating it and plans to have on-line materials available shortly.
· Several speakers at the meeting underscored that building codes should be considered a “starting point” in terms of building design and construction, and that they should be better matched with anticipated hazards specific to a location.
· FEMA representatives suggested that potential applicants for funding identify the work that needs to get done, and then look for appropriate funds. They said that looking for available funding and then trying to find a job that will fit the stated requirements rarely leads to success.
· Roy Wright, the President and CEO of IBHS, underscored the need to use high-quality materials in mitigation projects.
· Applicants for funding will be asked to project a positive benefit-cost ratio of the mitigation efforts.
· It is anticipated that most of the funding will be distributed through State-lead efforts.
Based on this meeting, our best estimate is that specifics of the BRIC program will be available close to the end of the year. In the meantime, FEMA has hosted, and posted on-line, a series of four webinars which explore issues related to the program such as hazard mitigation planning and detailing the cost/benefit analysis of a project. You can find it at https://www.fema.gov/drra-bric. ERA continues to monitor the effort to shape specific all elements of the BRIC program. We’ll keep you posted on what we know, and we’ll alert you to what we know as soon as we know it.