Kathy Smith, AICP, Planning and Safety Branch Chief shares her views on the importance of the 20th anniversary of the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000.
October 30 was the 20th anniversary of the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000. With this law, Congress officially recognized that disaster protection starts with a mitigation plan. This law also authorized the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program. This grant program has been a major source of funding for community mitigation plans and projects. It supports them as they plan for and reduce risk before disasters hit.
Over the last 20 years, we have learned more about mitigation’s power to protect our communities from future disaster losses. The National Institute of Building Sciences reports that on average, for every federal dollar invested in mitigation, communities prevent $6 in disaster losses.
Our risk landscape has changed. Disasters are occurring more frequently and their impacts are causing communities millions of dollars in damages and lost lives every year. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, from 2016-2019, the United States has faced 44 “billion-dollar disasters.” These increases in damages signal a need for mitigation investments to change. They need to focus on helping communities adapt to changing conditions and become more resilient.
In 2018, Congress passed the Disaster Recovery and Reform Act (DRRA). The DRRA, like the Disaster Mitigation Act, amended the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to support mitigation planning and projects. One piece of the DRRA is a new pre-disaster mitigation grant program, Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC). This grant program launched its first application cycle on Sept. 30.
FEMA’s priorities for the BRIC program are to incentivize:
- Public infrastructure projects.
- Projects that mitigate risk to one or more lifelines.
- Projects that incorporate nature-based solutions.
- Adoption and enforcement of modern building codes.
BRIC is funded through an authority to set aside up to 6% of the Disaster Relief Funds. This takes place after federal post-disaster grant funding estimates, which include contributions from four FEMA post-disaster elements: Individual Assistance, Public Assistance, Disaster Unemployment Assistance and Crisis Counselling.
The BRIC program can fund eligible planning activities like:
- Creating, updating, or enhancing a mitigation plan;
- Integrating information from the mitigation plan into comprehensive plans, capital improvement plans, and others; and
- Adopting, applying, and enforcing building codes.
FEMA is celebrating the anniversary and legacy of the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 throughout October and November. For more information, visit fema.gov/disasters/authorities.
In addition, the 2020 Fiscal Year funding cycle for the Hazard Mitigation non-disaster grants is accepting applications until Jan. 29, 2021. As a FEMA-approved Hazard Mitigation Plan is required for funding, review the eligible projects for funding for a Flood Mitigation Assistance and the new pre-disaster mitigation program Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities.