Today’s newsletter is about the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program, a topic I’ve covered before in this newsletter. If you aren’t sure or could use a refresher on what that is, check out this edition
from May before reading on!
Last month, FEMA announced its selection of 406 cities to move forward in the process to receive BRIC funding for mitigation projects. This decision came about nine months after the agency opened the program for its inaugural round of applications.
It’s important to note this shortlist will still go through further review, meaning these projects are not yet getting a green light. Still, since this is a new, heavily promoted program from the agency and one the Biden administration has announced plans to invest in more moving forward, I wanted to spend some time looking into the program’s progression. It’ll be the subject of this week’s newsletter and next, focusing first on the information the agency has released so far about applicants and then taking a bigger-picture look at what it takes to apply for the grant, all in hopes of helping you better understand who the program is currently serving.
Let’s start with what FEMA shared
: those nearly 1,000 applications came from a combined 53 states and territories, as well as 40 tribes. For this round, no state will receive more than $600,000, and the agency set aside $20 million for tribes.
From there, the agency offered an alphabetical list of all those applicants, categorized by whether they are receiving further review, were not selected, or did not meet the specific criteria created for this program. To dig into this data, I spoke with Dr. Kris Smith of Headwaters Economics, an independent, non-partisan research organization she describes as “half think thank, half community assistance program.” Smith has firsthand experience with the BRIC program, having helped a town in Montana put together an application (more on that next week). When she saw the July announcement from FEMA, she decided to organize it by state in hopes of getting a better idea of which areas are positioned to benefit most from the program. Through her analysis
, she discovered a stark regional divide.
“It was predominantly our urban centers, the wealthier communities on the coasts,” she told me by phone in late July. “The interior United States got almost no money.”