On Monday, the White House announced a major investment into disaster mitigation. The press release came hours before President Biden visited Federal Emergency Management Association headquarters for a briefing on the Atlantic hurricane season, where he pledged to “spare no expense, no effort” to help keep Americans safe from and respond to crises.
The announcement raised some questions, though, from where exactly that money was coming from to when it will actually be distributed. So, I thought it could be helpful to break down what we do know about this funding and how it will be distributed.
Show me the money
First, let’s look at the White House statement
“…the Administration is announcing it will direct $1 billion for communities, states, and Tribal governments into pre-disaster mitigation resources to prepare for extreme weather events and other disasters, and the Administration is announcing the development of next generation climate data systems at NASA to help understand and track how climate change is impacting communities.”
My focus for today is going to be on that $1 billion, which the fact sheet says will be allocated through the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program. This is a new initiative launched last fall to fund mitigation projects. I actually wrote about it as part of my deep-dive into United States disaster flashpoints for Fenix
“This fall, the agency launched its latest initiative in this space, a new grant program called Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities
(BRIC). The site for the program, which has been two years in the making, explains its aim to “categorically shift” federal dollars away from post-disaster spending in favor of community resilience projects. In total, the Agency will distribute up to $500 million for the program this fiscal year to states and tribes that have had a major disaster declaration within the past seven years. Applicants are encouraged to think “big and bold” when it comes to proposing projects, which can include everything from energy-based initiatives like microgrids to infrastructure upgrades and even community relocation programs.”
If you’re interested in learning more about the creation and basics of BRIC, I recommend this read from Scientific American
The application period for the first round of BRIC funds closed this past January, and there are a few local news articles that describe some of the applications. For example, officials in Colorado
hoped to use the funds for improving evacuation infrastructure and officials in Illinois
would like to put some towards fixing failed sewage systems. FEMA also offered an overview
of the applications it received:
“FEMA received 980 subapplications, which is the most subapplications received to date for pre-disaster mitigation. For this grant cycle, $500 million is available, and FEMA received requests for $3.6 billion in applications, with total proposed project costs exceeding $5.49 billion.”
I wrote in a previous newsletter about the difficulty of understanding numbers
in the news when it comes to disasters, as the degree of destruction and funding alike can appear daunting without being put into any sort of scale. This information from FEMA offers some critical context around how much the agency was initially putting into the BRIC program – $500 million – versus the requests it received, which stretched into the billions. As a bit more background, the US spent $95 billion
responding to “22 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters” in 2020.