Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

The Building Blocks of BRIC: Investing in Our Infrastructure

America’s infrastructure is in dire need of repair. One out of every five miles of highway pavement is in poor condition; and, one in nine bridges in the United States (U.S.) is rated structurally deficient. Moreover, the average age of the nation’s 614,387 bridges is over 50 years old. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates that by 2025, “aging and unreliable” infrastructure will cost American businesses $7 trillion in lost  revenue. In addition, large scale disasters further exacerbate America’s aging infrastructure, especially critical infrastructure.

Critical infrastructure is defined as the assets, systems, and networks essential to societal and economic functions. In 2017, after heavy rainfall, 180,000 California residents were evacuated due to spillway damage at the Oroville Dam. The following year in California, aging PG&E hardware broke loose during heavy winds and resulted in the 2018 Camp Fire. On the East Coast, New York City is still recovering from Hurricane Sandy in which more than 8 million customers lost power and more than half a million homes were destroyed, resulting in more than $65 billion in damages.

For decades, short-term or minimal repairs have served as band aids that keep our aging bridges, tunnels, subways, and electrical grids in operation – but this is not a cost-effective long-term solution.

Tyler Nix: Source

Investing in our infrastructure and lifelines

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program creates an annual funding opportunity to make critical investments in infrastructure systems and create system-wide improvements that will help communities withstand the impacts of more frequent and severe natural disasters.  BRIC replaces the Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) program and refocuses mitigation efforts on strengthening core infrastructure sectors, such as water and wastewater, transportation, energy, communications, public health and several others. BRIC’s funding structure will enable high-impact investments with a focus on public infrastructure and critical services and facilities.

As outlined in FEMA’s Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), eligible applicants states, territories and federally-recognized tribes may submit an unlimited number of mitigation project subapplications, each valued up to $50 million in federal share (75 percent of total project cost). This is a significant increase from the $10 million federal share cap under FEMA’s PDM Resilient Infrastructure program in 2019. Moreover, the BRIC NOFO creates a $600,000 state/territory and tribal set-aside for Capability- and Capacity-Building which includes project scoping activities. This set-aside alone is a crucial funding source for communities that have identified weaknesses in their infrastructure systems but require financial assistance with the technical studies, engineering, and alternatives analyses needed to support project development.

The technical criteria identified in the BRIC NOFO further solidifies the program’s prioritization of public infrastructure projects and focus on bolstering community lifelines –   systems that enable continuous operation of critical government and business functions within a community. A project that addresses infrastructure and mitigates risk to one or more community lifelines may earn up to 35 points of 100 points enumerated under the Technical Evaluation Criteria for the National Competition.

BRIC NOFO: Source

A time for action

Now is the time for communities to invest in their future. Events such as the collapse of the Interstate 35W Bridge in Minneapolis in August 2007 stand as stark reminders of the need to invest in aging public assets and the potential consequences of decades of neglect. These are the systems and lifelines that transport communities, provide potable water to families, support health networks, ensure local and global communication, and power homes, schools, and other critical services.

Eligible applicants should start planning how they will promote the BRIC program to potential subapplicants. This includes developing solicitations for project applications (i.e. a Notice of Interest or Intent), publishing fact sheets and training material, and hosting webinars to review programmatic requirements and priorities.  Interested subapplicants should review recent feasibility and planning studies to identify potential BRIC projects. Read more on identifying and screening projects on Hagerty blog on BRIC.

The BRIC program will provide communities with a funding source to proactively address deficiencies in their public infrastructure and community lifeline systems. Timely investments to rehabilitate infrastructure with an objective of creating a “resilient community” can result in an even higher return on investments. As John Roome, the World Bank’s Senior Director of Climate Change noted, investing in resilient infrastructure is not about spending more, but about spending better.

Hagerty is here to help. While the cost share for this program is 75 percent federal and 25 percent non-federal, FEMA will provide 100 percent federal funding for management costs associated with the administration of a BRIC-awarded mitigation measure or project. Therefore, our professionals can help at little-to-no additional cost.

Hagerty’s Mitigation Team are experts in navigating the pre- and post-disaster funding world. We are available to talk about your recovery needs, including how to access all funding available through federal grant programs. To learn more, contact us.

VANESSA CASTILLO is a mitigation and planning specialist with experience in the implementation of the FEMA mitigation programs. Before joining Hagerty, she was a planner with the City of Denver where she specialized in environmental compliance. Prior to Denver, she was a Mitigation Specialist with the state of Colorado where she contributed her expertise to the successful implementation of more than $65 million in Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) for Colorado’s largest disaster.