FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell discusses how the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law helps to build resilience in communities across the nation
Since day one, President Biden has taken bold steps to ensure America’s buildings, roads, and systems that deliver critical services to people like you and me, are receiving the investments they need and deserve.
Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed eighteen months ago, FEMA’s hazard mitigation grant programs have received an unprecedented $6.8 billion boost further aid to communities executing innovative and forward-leaning hazard mitigation projects. And this work is underway nationwide.
Out west, the Showalter Bay Indian Tribe in Washington received over $2 million to construct an evacuation tower to shelter members during a tsunami.
On the east coast, a historic community founded by freed African Americans in Princeville, North Carolina, is receiving funding to move vulnerable homes out of flood prone areas.
And in Utah, FEMA’s hazard mitigation funding is helping drought-stricken communities and improving drinking standards with a water distribution system.
During Infrastructure Week, we highlighted and celebrated these groundbreaking projects. We also looked forward to the Infrastructure Decade this new legislation will usher in here at FEMA and across the entire Biden-Harris Administration.
As FEMA Administrator, I have seen what flash floods and wicked winds can do to crumbling infrastructure. I have seen neighborhoods torn apart by devastating disasters.
But I have also seen people who have lost everything come together and commit to build back their communities.
I have witnessed communities rise from the rubble despite tremendous obstacles, and I have had the distinct honor, both as Administrator and throughout my career at FEMA and across the emergency management enterprise, to help them pick up the pieces and rebuild with resilience.
However, as climate change continues to demonstrate, we can expect the frequency and intensity of these events to continue. We cannot become complacent or waste the opportunity that legislation like the Infrastructure Law provides.
The work we are doing today to advance our nation’s resilience must continue. These efforts will deliver communities a return on investment that will last for generations to come.
At the same time, we recognize that hazard mitigation projects take time, are costly and often out of reach for the many communities who need them the most.
To address this, FEMA took action and cut through the red tape to speed up the release of resilience funding through our Flood Mitigation Assistance Swift Current Initiative, enabling FEMA to quickly distribute funds to the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania in order to reduce their flood risk. In less than a year after making $60 million in funding available through this program, we have already obligated more than half—getting critical mitigation funding to communities that need it most.
Another first-time program was our Safeguarding Tomorrow Revolving Loan Fund program, which provides low-interest loans to eligible states, territories and federally recognized tribes, minimizing the cost-share burdens for under-resourced communities. This innovative solution both reduces barriers to FEMA assistance and helps local governments carry out mitigation projects that will make a lasting impact.
And just last week, we announced that 46 communities are now eligible for Direct Technical Assistance through FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program. This hands-on assistance helps communities vying for long-term critical infrastructure projects, further reducing barriers encountered by smaller and under-resourced communities.
We know that every community has different resources and resilience projects can be difficult to even get started. Fortunately, thanks to the Infrastructure Law and this unique form of assistance, 76 communities total are now benefitting from the program nationwide.
BRIC Direct Technical Assistance, along with all our programs funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, underscore the importance of not just working for communities but with them. The projects we undertake are a testament to that objective.
These efforts also align with President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, which aims to deliver 40% of the overall benefits of climate, clean energy, affordable and sustainable housing, clean water and other investments to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, overburdened and underserved.
As we look towards the future of these programs and the possibilities they offer, I wanted to share one example that shows how these various programs come together to promote resilience and advance equity.
Eastwick is the lowest lying neighborhood in the City of Philadelphia and has a long history of flooding. As an economically disadvantaged community, Eastwick qualified for our Direct Technical Assistance through our BRIC program. For more than eight months, FEMA has dedicated contract support and staff to help the city conduct outreach with multiple federal agencies and to build a comprehensive community-led flood mitigation strategy. In this funding cycle, the city has been selected to receive potential future funding, through both BRIC and Flood Mitigation Assistance, totaling over $700,000 to create a flood resilience strategy and develop project designs.
This is exactly what the Infrastructure Law and Direct Technical Assistance is all about, and Eastwick is just one example of the power of infrastructure investments and what is possible when those investments are made with equity at front of mind.
We will continue working with communities across the nation who require our assistance and want to build resilience in their communities, expeditiously disbursing these funds to those that need them most. And we will do so in a way that reflects our core values as well as our commitment to our nation, our planet, and our future.