Flood Mitigation Assistance: Investing in Our Future

On August 12, 2022, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO). The most striking component is the significant and unprecedented investment in the Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) program – a 5 times greater investment than the previous year. FY 2021 offered eligible applicants and subapplicants $160 million for FMA funding. This year, FY 2022, offers $800 million in assistance to reduce or eliminate the risk of repetitive flood damaging to structures insured under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The boost in funding is made available to eligible applicants (States) and subapplicants (local governments) from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

FMA Funding Priorities

The $800 million dollar investment is divided among three strategic funding priorities.

Capability and Capacity Building (C&CB)

This $60 million assists eligible entities to plan and scope flood related mitigation interventions and improve the administration of the FMA program. C&CB activities can be the seed funding for future flood mitigation projects. According to FEMA, all subapplications under C&CB must demonstrate that the activity will reduce flood claims against the NFIP. More information on the C&CB scoring criteria is found on page 30 of the FMA NOFO.

Localized Flood Risk Reduction Projects

The second priority is localized flood risk reduction projects – previously known as community flood mitigation projects. These are the larger scale flood mitigation projects that seek to address community wide flood control issues. The funding for this priority was limited to $70 million last year, but with further investment at $340 million, it provides a greater opportunity for NFIP-insured communities to address stormwater management, floodplain restoration, and floodwater storage and diversion.

To be competitive for this FMA priority, applicants and subapplicants should address as many criteria as possible in the localized flood risk reduction project scoring criteria (page 32 of the FMA NOFO). Key scoring aspects include NFIP policy holder status, CDC Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) score, climate change/ future conditions, nature-based solutions, severe repetitive loss (SRL)/ repetitive loss (RL) properties, and a private partnership investment. The max project under this priority is $50 million (increased from $30 million).

Individual Flood Mitigation Projects

The last priority is individual flood mitigation projects. This $400 million priority utilizes a separate scoring criteria (page 36 of the FMA NOFO). This priority typically includes elevation and acquisition projects for NFIP properties in the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). Key aspects to a competitive subapplication include substantial damage determinations, the CDC SVI score, SRL and RL properties, and implementation measures.

Equity and Climate Change

The FMA program is prioritizing assistance that benefits disadvantaged communities. The program utilizes the CDC SVI tool. Using the tool, a disadvantaged community (SVI score of not less than 0.6) will be prioritized in the scoring criterion for C&CB, localized flood, and individual flood projects. In addition, FMA prioritizes the enhancement of climate resilience and environmentally friendly construction practices. The scoring rubrics favorite activities that include nature-based solutions, climate adaptation, and future conditions.

Increasing Access, Investing in Our Future

The FMA program is an annual, competitive flood mitigation program that seeks to lessen the damage to NFIP properties with a focus on RL and SRL structures. Which applicants and subapplicants can be competitive for FMA largely depends on geography, as these properties are significantly higher in certain areas of the United States.

FEMA is challenged to consider if the dollars are truly reaching the most vulnerable communities and how the additional funding will ultimately reduce their risk. The highest priorities for FEMA should be streamlining and improving the program, continuing to add benefit for disadvantaged communities, as well as an enhanced focus on climate adaptive projects. If these priorities are truly addressed, FEMA may see a more equitable FMA program that flourishes in benefit of disadvantaged, flood-prone communities nationwide.

Total Number of SRL Properties by State (as of March 2019)
FMA Federal Share Awarded by State (2021)


With the unprecedented funding in FMA this year, an amount that actually surpassed all the subapplications received in 2021 (25 States submitted 194 subapplications requesting $534 million), we should be able to make a substantial impact in reducing the number of homes, businesses, and structures severely impacted by storms year after year – in hopes of one day, not having any RL or SRL properties in the country.


Amelia Muccio is the Director of Mitigation at Hagerty Consulting and a subject matter expert in disaster recovery. With over 15 years of experience in public health, disaster preparedness, mitigation, and financial recovery, Amelia has helped clients obtain $5 billion in federal funds after major disasters, including Hurricane Sandy, the California Wildfires, and Hurricane Harvey.

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Increasing Access and Equity to FEMA’s Enhanced Flood Mitigation Assistance Program

The Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) Program is the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) primary grant program for addressing flood risk to vulnerable National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) properties. The recently signed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (2021) (IIJA) appropriated $3.5 billion to the National Flood Insurance Fund for the FMA program. This breaks down to $700 million over the next five years, starting with fiscal year 2022. This is a significant investment on FEMA’s behalf to provide funding to reduce the number of properties currently at risk of flooding and reduce the number and value of future claims to the NFIP.

In addition to the funding, FEMA is challenged to consider if the dollars are truly reaching the most vulnerable communities and how the additional funding will ultimately reduce their risk. The highest priorities for FEMA should be streamlining and improving the program, continuing to add benefit for disadvantaged communities, as well as an enhanced focus on climate adaptive projects. If these priorities are addressed, FEMA may see a more equitable FMA program that flourishes in benefit of disadvantaged, flood-prone communities nationwide.

History of FMA funding

As a result of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, the primary source of funding for FMA has been NFIP premiums. As such, the primary goal of the FMA program has been to award projects with the greatest potential to maximize savings to the NFIP principally through mitigation projects that protect or remove Severe Repetitive Loss (SRL) and Repetitive Loss (RL) properties from flood hazards. FEMA uses the SRL list as its primary source of eligibility information, despite this list being fraught with inconsistencies and outdated information.

Repetitive Loss (RL): A property that has incurred flood related damage on two occasions, in which the cost of the repair, on the average, equaled or exceeded 25 percent of the market value of the structure at the time of each such flood event.

Severe Repetitive Loss (SRL): A property that has had four or more separate NFIP claims payments have been made with the amount of each claim exceeding $5,000 (including building and contents), and with the cumulative amount of claims payments exceeding $20,000; or two or more separate claim payments (building payments only) where the total of the payments exceeds the current value of the property.

As reported by the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General (OIG) in 2020, $1.09 billion was allocated in FMA grants from 2013 to 2019. Since 2013, demand for this funding source has exceeded available funds (Figure 1). In 2020, FMA received $477 million in applications, more than double the amount allocated, which demonstrates an increased need for mitigation dollars that were, until this point, not made available for flood ravaged communities. Additionally, the report found that, on average, FMA projects took 2.7 years to complete from the date of application submission. For a household whose home is no longer habitable, 2.7 years is unacceptable.

Figure 1 FMA Applications compared to Available Funding (2013-2020)

This figure was adapted from a DHS OIG Report (OIG-20-68, 2020), p. 5

Types of projects historically funded by FMA

The primary objective of the FMA program is to reduce or eliminate flood risk to SRL and RL properties by providing mitigation funding opportunities to address these vulnerabilities. To further incentivize the mitigation of these properties, the FMA program covers 100 percent of costs for the mitigation of SRL properties and 90 percent of costs for the mitigation of RL properties. Individual flood mitigation measures—largely property acquisitions and structure elevations are the majority of the projects funded under FMA. Between 2013 and 2019, the FMA program invested $328 million in the acquisition of real property and $428 million in the elevation of private structures. Other project types received substantially less funding (Figure 2).

Figure 2 FMA Federal Share by Project Type (2013-2019)

Where are FMA funds allocated?

States with the highest number of NFIP properties, and especially SRL and RL properties, receive the most FMA funding historically. From 2013 to 2019, Texas, Louisiana, and New Jersey received the most FMA funding (Figure 3), which is consistent with the location of SRL properties. One of the outliers is Mississippi, which has a high number of SRL properties, but reports no FMA funding in those years. Which brings us to a challenge of the FMA program – why are some communities, with demonstrable need, underrepresented in the distribution of FMA grants?

Figure 3 FMA Federal Share Awarded by State (2013-2019)

Figure 4 Total Number of SRL Properties by State (as of March 2019)

FMA Program Obstacles

Application Submission and Project Cost Effectiveness

To begin with, the complexity of the grant application process and significant resources needed at the local government level to develop those applications discourage many communities from applying. These challenges contribute to either state or local decisions not to pursue FMA and their ability to be successful in obtaining funding.

FEMA’s FMA program, as with the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) and Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) grants, requires a very thorough and complex application to be submitted for the national competition, most of which is hard for communities to navigate on their own.

The FMA application also involves a Benefit-Cost Analysis (BCA) to evaluate if the risk reduction benefits of the project outweigh the costs to implement the project (e.g.,, buyout, elevate or otherwise mitigate the at-risk buildings). FEMA has taken steps to streamline cost-effectiveness by making revisions to the value of pre-calculated benefits. Pre-calculated benefits simplify the BCA for many individual flood mitigation projects by providing a standard value for benefits rather than requiring the community to conduct a full BCA.

Paperwork Overload

Another challenge to participation in the program is the burden to individual property owners. For example, the documentation burden can be significant since some of the households may not have NFIP documentation readily available. Further, property owners can be subject to prohibitive upfront or out-of-pocket costs—especially for elevation projects. This is acutely true in communities with socioeconomic disadvantages and in areas that have experienced repeated flood events. Elevation projects will often require the property owner to obtain property surveys, design plans, elevation certificates, and other technical information that must be submitted during the application process. In addition to documentation collection, as noted by the 2020 OIG report, property owners are often subject to a long waiting period before their home is purchased or mitigated.

Ultimately, property owners depend on the willingness and ability of state and local officials to participate in the FMA program. Without assistance to local jurisdictions to prepare project applications, mitigation of these at-risk properties and communities will continue to be slow and inequitable.

Closing the gap: Getting funding to communities in need

With the bump in funding that FMA is receiving through the IIJA, will necessary funding reach those communities that have been left out or underrepresented in the program? Mitigation across flood prone American communities is only going to become more urgent as the impacts of climate change worsen. These impacts will impact disadvantaged communities in disproportionate ways so the more we invest today, the better. Mitigation saves $6 on average for every $1 spent on federal mitigation grants.

With the Biden Administration’s Justice40 Initiative (Executive Order 14008), the FMA FY2021 program intends to prioritize projects that benefit disadvantaged communities. The FMA Notice of Funding Opportunity for FY21 grants includes additional scoring points for Project Scoping and Community Flood Mitigation Projects that benefit disadvantaged communities (as measured by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Social Vulnerability Index).

In addition to the changes from the Justice40 Initiative, the IJIA expanded the federal cost share to 90 percent for a property that 1) is located in a census tract with a CDC SVI score of not less than 0.5001 or 2) serves as a primary residence for individuals with a household income of not more than 100 percent of the applicable median income.

To utilize this new funding in the most equitable way, several key areas can be improved to further the goals of the FMA program.

  • FEMA can provide communities accurate NFIP and SRL data more readily.
  • FEMA can incentivize homeowner participation by streamlining the application review and award process.
  • States can improve their subapplicant outreach to reduce ineligible or non-competitive projects and improve the viability of FMA subapplications submitted.
  • FEMA, state, and local governments can make equitable choices in prioritizing projects (e.g., prioritizing primary residences over secondary or income properties).

What’s next?

Interested states and communities should prepare for this upcoming funding by beginning outreach to communities to understand need and level of interest in participation and to provide technical assistance if needed. Additionally, states that have received FMA funding in the previous year can apply for FMA’s Technical Assistance program which provides funding to states to maintain a viable FMA program over time

As with the BRIC program and HMGP, FMA offers funding for Project Scoping activities. The funding caps are $300,000 for individual flood mitigation projects (e.g., acquisitions, elevations, mitigation reconstruction) and $900,000 for community flood mitigation projects. For individual flood mitigation projects, a community could apply for Project Scoping to conduct homeowner outreach, identify priority project areas, develop a Benefit-Cost Analysis, assist homeowners with documentation collection, and develop a complete FMA application. A similar strategy applies to project scoping for community flood mitigation projects.

Conclusion

As our climate continues to change, the importance of this funding cannot be overstated; and by ensuring all communities in need receive this funding, we are collectively buying down our risk to future disaster impacts. Furthermore, reducing or eliminating current barriers to entry into the program will help ensure funding reaches those who need it most, when they need it.


Vanessa Castillo is a mitigation and planning consultant with experience in the implementation of the FEMA mitigation programs. Before joining Hagerty, 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.

Lauren Dozier is a Senior Managing Associate and a subject matter expert (SME) in disaster recovery. Lauren has spent the past 11 years in preparedness, mitigation, and FEMA Public Assistance (PA). Her knowledge and experience of financial recovery has assisted communities nationwide to recover from and prevent future disasters.

Amelia Muccio is the Director of Mitigation at Hagerty Consulting and a SME in disaster recovery. With over 15 years of experience in public health, disaster preparedness, mitigation, and financial recovery, Amelia has helped clients obtain $5 billion in federal funds after major disasters, including Hurricane Sandy, the California Wildfires, and Hurricane Harvey.

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Become Climate Resilient: Changes You Can Make to Prepare for Increasingly Extreme Weather Events

The newest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, released in August 2021, summarizes global climate change science and impacts, and concludes we are at a “code red for humanity.” The report confirms the rise of more frequent extreme weather events due to climate change throughout all regions of the globe, including the United States (US). About one in three Americans experienced a climate disaster during the summer this year. These increasingly frequent and intense natural disaster events underscore the importance of National Preparedness Month.

Climate Change Preparedness and Mitigation Tips

The first step in preparing for an increase in extreme weather events is understanding how climate change affects you and your community; then you can take action to protect yourself and others from the devastation brought by these events.

How Does Climate Change Affect You and What Can You Do About It?

Here are some steps you can take to understand how climate change and the hazards it creates affect you, and how to prepare for them:

  • Identify what natural hazards are prominent in your area. This is a vital first step that will allow you to customize your preparations. There are various online tools to help you with this, including this interactive map of climate threats. You can assess risks to your property through tools like Flood Factor, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service’s wildfire risk map, and the US Drought Monitor. Additionally, look for hazard assessments from your state or local government, which are often provided through county or city open data websites or through high-resolution maps in hazard mitigation, comprehensive land use, or sustainability plans.
  • Prepare for extreme weather events. Different weather events require different types of preparations. Once you know the most common natural disasters where you live, you can start to prepare. Ready.gov has an emergency preparedness checklist and Hagerty’s first 2021 Preparedness Month post offers important, lesser-known preparedness actions. It’s especially important to prepare for extreme weather events by reviewing what your home and/or renters insurance policy covers (and doesn’t), and by organizing important documents and backups. Updating your insurance coverage and having backup documents at-hand may help you repair or rebuild more efficiently after an extreme event.
  • Build a strong local network. Strong social networks help individuals and communities better withstand and recover from disasters. Prepare for climate change and extreme weather events by reflecting on what help you may need and what assistance you may be able to provide to your neighbors, then start building those critical social connections. Consider participating in or hosting an event like Neighborfest, an innovative community preparedness and connection celebration in a block party format.
  • Adapt your home and property to withstand local hazards. There are several ways you can weather-proof your home and its surrounding landscape to minimize damage from extreme weather. Consider how to “harden” (i.e., protect) against damages and how to mitigate (i.e., reduce risk). For example, you can harden your home against flooding by sealing cracks in your foundation and basement walls, and you can lessen flood risk by creating natural green spaces with local plant species (instead of impervious surfaces like asphalt and concrete) to better absorb water. The Firewise USA program offers specific, easy to understand guidance for homes in wildfire-risk zones. Extreme weather events often contribute to power outages, so climate-proofing your home also involves preparing for extended outages.

How Can You Help Slow Climate Change?

Climate change is a global problem and addressing the root causes of climate change is critical to protecting ourselves and our communities over the long-term.

  • Choose strategies to reduce your carbon footprint. Our daily choices – such as how we travel, what we eat, the materials in our clothing, and the temperature we set the thermostat – have a significant impact when aggregated. Carbon footprint calculators estimate the amount of greenhouse emissions generated by our daily activities. Try the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Household Carbon Footprint Calculator to find out how your carbon footprint compares to the US average and how you can reduce your environmental impact.
  • Advocate for climate mitigation solutions. Decreasing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions substantially enough in the timeframe needed to avoid catastrophic consequences requires large-scale coordination, not just individual action. Encourage climate action in your community by voting in all elections, showing up for public comment events, volunteering with environmental organizations, and/or engaging with local decision-makers.

Conclusion

Extreme weather events are increasing in intensity, frequency, and cost. Planning as individuals and households for the climate extremes that affect us is a critical component of emergency preparedness overall.


Elizabeth Foster is a Senior Managing Associate in Hagerty’s Preparedness Division. Ms. Foster works with Hagerty’s clients on climate resilience, disaster recovery planning, and continuity of operations projects. Prior to joining Hagerty, she managed technical assistance focused on development and land use strategies to improve urban resilience with the Urban Land Institute. Elizabeth also served as a Disaster Risk Reduction & Management Program Officer for the US Peace Corps in Amlan, Philippines, supporting the municipality’s capacity to implement climate change adaptation and disaster management programs.

Gianna Christopher is Hagerty’s Coordination and Administration Associate within the Preparedness Division. She supports the division by creating written publications, performing Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) on important documents as requested with tight deadlines, as well as performing other assorted administrative tasks.


Additional resources

Flooded with FEMA Mitigation Funding: Can We Spend It?

Earlier this month, the Biden Administration announced an unprecedented commitment of $3.46 billion of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funding for the 59 major disaster declarations for COVID-19. The top ten recipients are:

COVID-19 FEMA HMGP Allocations

RecipientTotal
Texas$666,134,283
California$484,383,864
New York$378,128,107
Florida$185,056,086
New Jersey$148,647,976
Washington$113,424,988
Massachusetts$110,760,576
Maryland$93,289,392
Georgia$78,691,416
Louisiana$78,005,056

Additionally, the Administration announced $1 billion for the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program and $160 million for the Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) program. The nearly $5 billion of funding is to assist states, territories, and tribes to maximize their investment in mitigation, address the growing climate change crisis, and prioritize underserved communities.

HMGP is a statewide competitive grant program while BRIC and FMA are nationally competitive grant programs.

 Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) Building Resilient Infrastructure & Communities (BRIC)Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP)
PurposeFEMA managed, State administered program and not directly tied to a disaster declaration; reduce NFIP claimsFEMA managed, State administered program and not directly tied to a disaster declaration; high-impact, neighborhood scale projectsState administered program and directly tied to a disaster declaration; break cycle of repetitive losses
CycleAnnuallyAnnuallyPost-Disaster
Local Match0%, 10%, or 25%At least 25% or 10% for economically disadvantaged rural communities25%
FY 2021 Funding (Federal Share)$160M Nationwide
Nationally Competitive
$1B Nationwide
Nationally Competitive
$3.46B for COVID-19 State Competitive

HMGP

FEMA announced all 59 states, tribes, and territories that received a major disaster declaration in response to the COVID-19 pandemic will be eligible to receive 4 percent of those disaster costs to invest in mitigation projects that reduce risks from natural disasters. Though the dollar amounts vary, the overall intent of the HMGP funding is clear – develop innovative mitigation projects that reduce the impacts of climate change.

BRIC

Earlier this week, FEMA released the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for BRIC 2021. Based on lessons learned from the inaugural grant cycle, FEMA made some integral changes to the program to incorporate not only high-impact, neighborhood scale infrastructure projects, climate change, and increased emphasis of nature-based solutions, but, increasing and restructuring the funds to address the most vulnerable populations through the Justice40 Initiative. This initiative mandates that 40 percent of the BRIC funding benefit disadvantaged communities.

FEMA will distribute up to $1 billion through the BRIC program using the following approach:

  • State/ Territory Allocation: $56 million (up to 1 million per applicant). All 50 States, the District of Columbia, and U.S Territories may apply under the State/Territory Allocation. This includes Capability and Capacity Building (C&CB) activities (project scoping, partnership, building codes, and planning).
  • Tribal Set-Aside: $25 million, and all federally recognized Tribal Governments may apply under the Tribal Set Aside.
  • National Competition for Mitigation Projects: Approximately $919 million and any funds that are not awarded from the State/Territory Allocation will be re-allocated to the national competition.

FMA Program

FMA provided annual funding to eligible states, local communities, tribes, and territories to reduce or eliminate the future risk of flood damage to structures insured under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The $160 million is distributed through the FMA program by allotting the funds in five categories:

  • Up to $10 million: Project Scoping – funding for developing community flood mitigation projects or individual mitigation projects.
  • Up to $70 million: Community Flood Mitigation Projects to address community flood risk projects on a larger scale.
  • At least $80 Million: For technical assistance; flood hazard mitigation planning; and individual flood mitigation projects.

The Growing Mitigation Backlog

While these three funding streams (HMGP, BRIC and FMA) are providing communities with an unprecedented mitigation opportunity, how quickly should communities expect to have funding in hand and a shovel in the ground?

We analyzed FEMA’s Open Data Set for HMGP funding from 2010 to 2021 and only a little more than half of all awarded projects have been implemented and closed out. Much of the funding that was originally allocated for HMGP has not been spent which means that projects are either not being implemented, being deemed ineligible, or extremely delayed. In total, over $9 billion dollars in previously allocated HMGP funding remains unspent. Moreover, when examining the time spent from award to closeout, over 1,200 projects took over five years to be implemented.

FEMA Dataset HMGP Allocations 2010-2021 
Total Number of HMGP Projects Awarded9433
Total Dollar amount of HMGP Projects$11,242,345,406.79
Total Number of Open (Approved) HMGP Projects4411
Total Dollar Amount of Open HMGP Funding$9,258,651,730.99
Total Number of Closed HMGP Projects5022
Total Dollar Amount of Closed HMGP Funding$1,983,693,675.80

This analysis reflects a grant program that is complex and complicated. While funding may be allocated, it does not necessarily demonstrate that projects are being implemented and/or constructed in a timely manner. FEMA’s mitigation funding is meant to save lives and protect critical infrastructure, which are urgent priorities that need quicker mitigation interventions. Furthermore, climate change is a pressing problem that requires a timely mitigation response. Yet, the fact is, we are still implementing and spending funding from legacy disasters including Hurricanes Katrina (2005) and Sandy (2012). Accordingly, this new mitigation funding, while incredibly helpful and needed, will tack on billions more in funding to an already significantly backlogged system.

How Can the This Funding Be Expedited?

To spend the funding quicker, it would require a commitment and change at every level of government and to the Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) program.

Subapplicants

Subapplicants should thoroughly analyze projects for potential pitfalls, including potential Duplication of Programs (DOP) issues; Benefit-Cost Analyses (BCAs) which are reliant on questionable benefits to be cost-effective; as well as Environmental and Historic Preservation (EHP) considerations which may delay or render the project infeasible. Subapplicants should be transparent regarding any easements, public opposition, or other obstacles which may not be readily apparent in the subapplication materials so applicants can fully assess, evaluate, and subsequently inform subapplicants on the project’s viability. To accomplish these goals, subapplicants should consider taking the following steps:

  • Meet with your State Hazard Mitigation Officer (SHMO) and participate in State sponsored mitigation outreach and webinars.
  • Engage stakeholders and partners in advance of project development including the community for needed project buy-in; include securing a project champion to assist the project from beginning to end – project scoping to closeout.
  • Utilize pre-award costs to scope out potential mitigation projects including the development of planning and feasibility studies.
  • Frontload projects with detailed environmental and historic preservation (EHP) analyses including desk reviews for natural and cultural resources.
  • Submit credible subapplications (including a well-documented BCA), otherwise the State or FEMA may need to phase your project or send requests for information (RFIs) which can impede progress.
  • Fully utilize management costs to successfully implement your awarded project.

Applicants

Applicants play a key role in providing technical assistance and support to subapplicants as they navigate these complex and resource intensive programs. Applicants who can provide proactive and ongoing support to subapplicants as they scope, apply for, and manage awarded grant funding, greatly increasing the subapplicant’s chances of successfully implementing and closing out the project. Some important steps Applicants can take include:

  • Establish a continuous mitigation outreach program that engages partners during blue skies, as well as, during disasters.
  • Educate subapplicants on the State’s mitigation priorities which includes publication of state-sponsored mitigation materials to educate and inform subapplicants applying for funding.
  • Utilize Advance Assistance funding to build a pipeline of future shovel ready projects or to address gaps in the program (e.g., create a BCA for heat mitigation).
  • Conduct project scoping calls with subapplicants interested in the HMA program and/or have a potentially eligible mitigation project.
  • Utilize the Notice of Intent (NOI)/Letter of Intent (LOI) (screening process) to weed out ineligible projects.
  • Consider establishing a global match funding strategy to assist economically disadvantaged subapplicants who may lack the needed local match funding.
  • Perform detailed programmatic, feasibility, cost-effectiveness, and EHP reviews of the subapplications before sending them to FEMA.
  • Inform subapplicants of procurement requirements outlined in 2 CFR 200 as procurement violations are one of the most common reasons FEMA deobligates funding.
  • Fully utilize management costs to build capacity and to provide robust support to subapplicants.

FEMA

  • Update the current 2015 HMA Guidance to reflect the new reality of mitigation and resiliency efforts and community needs.
  • Re-evaluate cost effectiveness policies considering equity, climate change priorities, and the need to provide more quantitative approaches for ancillary benefits such as carbon sequestration, watershed protection, and water quality improvement.
  • Expand guidance and eligible activities for other mitigation activities including drought, heat, and wildfires.
  • Expand direct technical assistance (TA) to States and subapplicants (feasibility and cost-effectiveness support); consider a special TA outreach and subapplication development track that targets economically disadvantaged communities.
  • Gain efficiencies in the RFI process to help streamline the post-subapplication submission.
  • Establish more programmatic agreements for EHP review for multiple project activities.
  • The BCA is proving to be an insurmountable and inequitable obstacle for resource constrained subapplicants and innovative climate adaptive projects (inherent equities and outdated methodologies), FEMA should consider reducing the discount rate to a more relevant rate to relieve this burden.
  • Invest in mitigation personnel to develop the next generation of mitigation subject matter experts (SMEs) capable of reviewing/evaluating subapplications and BCAs and can support subapplicants and applicants as they implement this program.

The Way Forward

Communities, and specifically mitigation practitioners, have an opportunity to plan, design, and construct vital infrastructure and community mitigation projects given this new infusion of mitigation funding. The burden though, lies with helping streamline the current processes, and assist one another to succeed in implementing current and future projects in a timelier manner so that we can truly thwart the impacts we all face given the ever-present and growing threat of climate change.


Amelia Muccio is the Director of Mitigation at Hagerty Consulting and a SME in disaster recovery. With over 15 years of experience in public health, disaster preparedness, mitigation, and financial recovery, Amelia has helped clients obtain $5 billion in federal funds after major disasters, including Hurricane Sandy, the California Wildfires, and Hurricane Harvey.

Lauren Dozier is a Senior Managing Associate and a subject matter expert in disaster recovery. Lauren has spent the past 11 years in preparedness, mitigation and Public Assistance (PA). Her knowledge and experience of financial recovery has assisted communities nationwide to recover from and prevent future disasters.


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The Results Are In: Inaugural BRIC Grant Selections and What Comes Next

On Thursday, July 1, 2021, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced the selection the subapplications for the $700 million being made available in fiscal year 2020 (FY20) for Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) and Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) grant programs. These competitive programs provide funding to states, tribes, territories, and local governments for eligible mitigation activities – ultimately aimed at reducing disaster losses and protecting life and property from disaster-related damages.

In its inaugural funding cycle alone, BRIC increased the nation’s investment in pre-disaster mitigation to $500 million and the individual project cap to $50 million – a dramatic increase from the $4 million cap for mitigation projects and $10 million cap for resilient infrastructure projects under the PDM program. BRIC, unlike its predecessor, the legacy FEMA Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) program, provides more meaningful and significant funding opportunities for high-impact infrastructure and community-based projects.

In total, 22 BRIC projects were competitively selected this cycle and the projects chosen are from nine states plus the District of Columbia (D.C.), totaling $377.7 billion. Hagerty assisted several applicants and subapplicants with their BRIC projects in FY20, ultimately helping submit nearly $1 billion of BRIC subapplications for FEMA review. Based on this experience, below are some of our key takeaways and lessons learned from BRIC this year as well as recommendations that are applicable during the next funding cycle.

Key Takeaways

The Success of Climate and Code Adoption

In the era of climate change, we should be pleased that 18 of the 22 competitive BRIC projects selected by FEMA included nature-based solutions into their mitigation projects. In fact, nature-based solutions, part of the technical scoring criteria, appears to be one of if not the most influential factor in project selection.

Second to nature-based mitigation, the competitive projects selected are from Applicants that have adopted the 2015 or 2018 versions of the International Building Code and the International Residential Code. Most, but not all, of the Applicant localities have a Building Code Effectiveness Grading Schedule (BCEGS) rating at or below 5, likely indicating that the chosen subapplicants have a similar BCEGS ratings; however subapplicant BCEGS rating are confidential. In the technical scoring criteria, subapplicants could receive up to 35 points for robust code adoption measures; accordingly, those with stronger building codes excelled during the selection process.

Small, Impoverished Communities

Additionally, we know BRIC funding is on the rise with the hope of providing greater support to small, impoverished communities. Last May, FEMA announced that $1 billion will be made competitively available under the BRIC program in 2021, with 40 percent being dedicated to supporting small, impoverished communities. Notably, this cycle, only two competitive projects selected by FEMA were designated as small, impoverished communities. The funding for these two projects totals approximately $24.7 million, or 7%, of the $377.7 million competitively available; yet, FEMA has signaled that the next round of BRIC funding will place greater focus on equity and disadvantaged communities.

What Comes Next?

All BRIC applications and associated projects were adjudicated into three categories: selected for further review, not selected, or did not meet Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) requirements (ineligible). Wondering what this means and what to do next?

Selected for further review

Competitive mitigation projects, selected for further review, will likely be notified about the upcoming grant award once FEMA has completed the associated and required Environmental and Historic Preservation (EHP) review. Depending on the FEMA Region, EHP review and project approval can often be a lengthy process.

Not selected

Subapplicants with projects that were not selected should consider resubmitting in the next BRIC funding round or in the next available Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funding opportunity. If the project did not include green infrastructure or nature-based mitigation, subapplicants should evaluate if these features can be added to the project’s scope. It is sensible to assume that nature-based mitigation will be critical again in next year’s BRIC selection process.

Did not meet HMA requirements (ineligible)

If the project was deemed ineligible, subapplicants can contact their State Hazard Mitigation Officer (SHMO) and request the project’s National Technical Review (NTR) memo. This memo will assist in highlighting the eligibility, feasibility, and cost-effectiveness issues identified by the NTR and FEMA. Based on the memo’s findings, subapplicants can decide if the project can be fixed and resubmitted in the BRIC 2021 cycle.

BRIC 2021 and Beyond

The BRIC 2021 Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) will likely be out next month and, given the tight turnaround, it is unlikely that many components of the program will change drastically. As applicants and subapplicants continue to scope potential projects for BRIC 2021, they should consider the following to best position projects for success.

  • Eligibility, feasibility, and cost-effectiveness. Eligible, feasible, and cost-effective projects are a recipe for HMA success and should not be deemed ineligible by FEMA.
  • Focus on nature-based solutions. Submit projects that have, at a minimum, a green/gray nexus or components of nature-based mitigation features. More information on how to incorporate these features can be found here.
  • Maximize the technical and qualitative scoring rubrics. This will help ensure that your project is competitive.
  • Give your project a descriptive title. This is the first thing a reviewer likely reads and encourages them to take a deeper dive.
  • Obtain and analyze your BCEGS rating. If your current BCEGS rating is over a 5, contact ISO to determine ways to lower the rating.
  • Establish public-private partnerships. These can help provide an increased local share match making your project potentially more favorable upon review.
  • Consider project phasing. Submitting the most credible project possible is important; therefore, if your project is in a preliminary design phase, consider submitting a phased project proposal. 12 phased projects were selected in BRIC 2020.
  • Advocate for your local jurisdiction. If your local jurisdiction has adopted the 2015/2018 IBC/IRC code and the State has not, reach out to your SHMO and/or FEMA Region to discuss if an exception can be given and the 20 points can be awarded for your subapplicant project(s).

Additionally, FEMA just announced their 2021 BRIC and FMA Program Webinar Series which begins on July 28 and will continue throughout October. During these sessions, FEMA will bring subject-matter experts and partners together to provide technical information, best practices, tools, and resources regarding these grant programs. The webinars are designed for leaders in states, local communities, tribes, and territories, as well as private sector entities, private non-profit organizations, and individuals interested in learning more about the BRIC and FMA grant programs and strategies for how to apply for them. All sessions will be recorded and posted to FEMA’s YouTube channel.

Conclusion

While this year’s BRIC competitive grant funding selections were limited to nine states and D.C., we need to remember it was the inaugural grant cycle for this promising funding stream. All that worked in support of BRIC projects – FEMA, States, tribes, subapplicants, and mitigation practitioners alike – learned valuable lessons during the process. Now, it is important to harness those lessons learned to include creating a more equitable approach to improve the resilience of communities. As we face the impacts of climate change and acknowledge that climate change is disproportionately impacting underserved communities, we need to ensure that moving forward, this critical funding stream is obtainable for all.

Hagerty Can 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, please fill out the form below.


Amelia Muccio is the Director of Mitigation at Hagerty Consulting and a subject matter expert in disaster recovery. With over 15 years of experience in public health, disaster preparedness, mitigation, and financial recovery, Amelia has helped clients obtain $5 billion in federal funds after major disasters, including Hurricane Sandy, the California Wildfires, and Hurricane Harvey. 

Want to know more about the BRIC program?

Please fill out the form below and one of our mitigation experts will be in touch!

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The Hagerty Advantage: Our People: Harrison Newton and Liz Foster

It is no secret; our planet’s climate is changing. Currently, much of the East and West Coasts are dealing with a record-breaking heatwave. Additionally, earlier this year, a massive ice storm, Winter Storm Uri, had widespread impacts across the United States, Northern Mexico, and parts of Canada. Moreover, many of the areas being impacted have never experienced weather events of this scale and magnitude before.

In order to properly prepare for, respond to, recover from, and mitigate against extreme weather events, it is important that climate change and disaster management be viewed through a holistic and interconnected lens – one weather event may create the environment for another one to occur. Today, two of Hagerty’s climate and resilience experts discuss their perspectives on the changing climate and how communities should be preparing today.


Tell us about yourself and how your career path led you to Hagerty Consulting.

Harrison Newton, Senior Managing Associate

I began my career in resilience as an outreach team leader, responding to a crisis caused by failing infrastructure – the release of toxic levels of lead in the drinking water in Washington DC. In partnership with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), I went door-to-door in DC’s impacted neighborhoods, educating families about the risk of contaminated water from deteriorating pipes and how they could mitigate it. I also led a task force that brought together researchers, local officials, and community leaders to rebuild lost trust, develop corrective legislation and reform the systems that failed to protect the public.

I then took the role of Chief of Environmental Health at the District’s Department of Environment, where I mobilized the city’s public health resources in response to large scale exposures caused by illegal demolitions and other similar events.

Later, I led the District’s suite of energy programs that supported residents experiencing energy emergencies and power loss. I was then selected by the City Administrator to launch the District’s first Resilience office, establishing a “Resilience Cabinet” – a body of agency leaders at the intersection of health, disaster readiness, transportation, housing and technology. We developed an executive-level strategy that aligned programs, plans and priorities in areas including climate action and preparedness, technology, and project financing.

Ensuring leaders, communities and scientists work together to build resilient systems is my life’s work. I am happy to bring that focus to Hagerty.

Elizabeth Foster, Senior Managing Associate

My career began with simple love of the outdoors and collegiate coursework in environmental science and policy. While I was a student, I assisted a youth-led urban gardening organization and earned my EMT certification; working in those capacities started me thinking about the connections between emergency management, holistic health, and climate change solutions.

Since then, I have focused on helping communities, governments, and businesses prepare for and manage the impacts of climate change. I’ve worked in multiple sectors in a variety of roles including as a business continuity specialist, advisor to a municipal government in the Philippines (through Peace Corps Response), and manager of technical assistance focused on development and land use strategies to improve urban resilience.

It has become clear to me through these disparate roles that building more equitable socioeconomic systems and climate-prepared infrastructure is critical to our future. I am excited to be at Hagerty where we offer a full suite of services to support communities through disasters and help them proactively adapt to the long-term consequences of climate change.

Given your professional experience with climate adaptation, mitigation, and resilience planning, how is climate change impacting the United States’ (US) infrastructure and what must be done about it?

The US faces a generational infrastructure challenge on at least two fronts. The first is the problem of aging infrastructure; bridges and roads are at the end of their life cycles, and older technology is vulnerable to the increasing disruptions of climate-related disasters. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates a 10-year U.S. infrastructure gap of $2.59 trillion. On top of those existing dynamics, more extreme weather events driven by climate change are causing increasing amounts of damage to existing assets.

Readying US infrastructure for climate change means reducing damages and preparing systems to function well during extreme weather events, so services are available when they are needed most. At Hagerty, we regularly help our Energy Sector clients create and practice response plans to support the continuation of critical services. An exciting area of innovation is considering how our day-to-day infrastructure, such as electric vehicles or community centers, can support disaster response and recovery in times of need.

The second generational challenge concerns the communities most likely to bear the worst impacts of unprepared infrastructure and climate disasters – minority communities with systemic underinvestment and high levels of poverty. These communities are already starting behind in the race to protect and prepare infrastructure, so going forward, they must be able to co-lead efforts to adapt to the changing environment and design the infrastructure that will define their neighborhoods – hopefully making their communities, and those surrounding them, more equitable.

Other critical solutions include implementing strategies like increasing renewable energy sources, low-carbon construction materials, and continued focus on energy efficiency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – the root cause of climate change – to lessen the chances of future worst-case outcomes.

Amidst a changing climate, what should communities be considering as they rebuild and recover after a disaster?

Rebuilding a community after a major or catastrophic disaster is a monumental undertaking, but there are unique post-disaster opportunities for improving long-term resilience. After Hurricane Michael (2018), the most powerful storm to impact North Florida in recorded history, Hagerty worked with Panama City, Florida to develop methodologies to prioritize and implement recovery actions that aligned with the City’s long-term vision. At least 25 of 33 recovery actions and 26 of the 39 redevelopment actions are in progress, in addition to the City’s management of the COVID pandemic.

Another best practice is to start recovery planning ahead of an incident. This helps alleviate the difficulties of working after a traumatic event and provides more time for community input. In Georgia, Hagerty is assisting 11 coastal counties in preparing disaster recovery and redevelopment plans that emphasize community resilience and incorporate long-term planning for natural disasters into state and local management processes. The completion of the plans for these counties will make Georgia the first state in the nation to have a completely resilient coast through recovery and redevelopment planning.

Communities can also consider spending recovery dollars on housing solutions that are both quickly deployable and permanent, so as to meet immediate needs and contribute to solving the greater housing affordability crisis. Hagerty was asked by the state of Texas to assess the potential of alternative recovery housing solutions such as 3D printed, modular, and prefabricated homes. We found that the industry construction and production capabilities are maturing rapidly, units are available with resilient technologies (wind-proofing, elevated foundation, mold-resistant materials, off-grid energy, etc.), and that these housing types can be a cost-effective solution in comparison to traditional temporary options.

Finally, there’s significant room for recovery innovation in how we scale up programs to support those without access to traditional sources of post disaster funding, such as insurance. Recovery can also be expanded to include supporting receiving communities that, while not directly impacted or eligible for federal assistance, provide housing and services for those displaced by a disaster.


Harrison Newton is a Senior Managing Associate at Hagerty Consulting. Prior to joining Hagerty, he spent nearly a decade in public service with Washington, DC. During his tenure with DC, he was responsible for establishing the District’s first Resilience Office, where he ultimately served as the Deputy Chief Resilience Officer responsible for promoting resiliency programs across various District departments and agencies. Additionally, Harrison also served as the Chief of Environmental Health at the District’s Department of Environment.

Elizabeth Foster is a Senior Managing Associate in Hagerty’s Preparedness Division. Prior to joining Hagerty, she served as a manager of technical assistance focused on development and land use strategies to improve urban resilience with the Urban Land Institute. Elizabeth also served as a Disaster Risk Reduction & Management Program Officer for the US Peace Corps in Amlan, Philippines supporting the municipality’s capacity to implement climate change adaptation and disaster management programs.

Colonial Pipeline Happened, What’s Next? Preparing for and Mitigating Against Future Petroleum Shortages

On Friday, May 7th, a ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline’s corporate information technology (IT) networks disrupted fuel distribution across the eastern coast of the United States (US). Colonial’s pipeline system is over 5,500 miles long, running from Houston, Texas to New York Harbor, New York. The attack – cited as the most disruptive cyberattack on energy infrastructure in US history – and subsequent shut down caused 17 states – across four Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regions – to declare states of emergency due to fuel shortages, most acutely within southeastern states. The pipeline has since resumed normal activities; however, this event highlighted both the challenges associated with responding to petroleum shortages and the importance of coordination across regions, states, and private sector entities before, during, and after shortage incidents.

Source: Colonial Pipeline Company

As referenced in our previous blog post on the attack, Colonial Pipeline worked with federal, state, and local agencies in a whole-of-government response to restore service as quickly as possible; however, fuel distribution networks do not follow the boundaries of established regions or states, and response actions taken in one state or region can impact neighboring jurisdictions. While each state likely has their own energy assurance plans, with provisions for petroleum shortage incidents that are informed by national-level guidance, the Colonial Pipeline incident reinforced the way in which impacts span jurisdictional boundaries.

Over the past few years, Hagerty has been working with the US Department of Energy (DOE), the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), and the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) on a series of projects with states across the country to account for the cascading effects of petroleum disruptions and to improve collective responses to petroleum shortages by building coordination across states, regions, and the private sector.

Hagerty, NEMA, and NASEO: Addressing the Call for Regional Coordination

Southeastern US Petroleum Shortage Planning Workshop

In 2017, NEMA and NASEO began an effort to address regional petroleum shortage coordination under a cooperative agreement with US DOE. Hagerty was added to the team to help plan and facilitate the February 2018 NEMA NASEO DOE Petroleum Shortage Response Planning Workshop in Atlanta. The workshop brought together representatives from 12 states, federal agencies, associations, and the oil and natural gas industry to define the current capacity and practices for petroleum shortage response. The workshop’s goal was to enhance regional petroleum shortage response coordination to bolster the overall energy resilience of the southeastern quadrant of the US. NASEO’s Guidance for States on Petroleum Shortage Response Planning served as the foundation for the workshop, giving participants the opportunity to not only become familiar with the guidance, but also provide feedback on additional guidance and data needs. During the workshop, participants identified areas for future planning and existing promising practices, including considerations for areas such as public information, external coordination, data and evaluation, regional coordination methods, and prioritization/allocation decision-making (see here for the workshop summary).

One key aspect from this and subsequent workshops is the criticality of public information during a petroleum shortage. What the media communicates to the public greatly influences how people will react to the incident. State energy offices and emergency management should be the primary drivers of the messages being released.

Western US Petroleum Shortage Workshop

After the success of the Southeast workshop, NEMA, NASEO, DOE, and Hagerty shifted their focus to the west coast, seeking to understand its state of readiness and potential foundations for regional petroleum shortage response coordination. Hagerty coordinated a workshop in 2019 that brought together representatives from 10 coastal and inland states in the western US, federal agencies, and industry to tackle the same challenges as their counterparts previously did in the southeast – seeking to facilitate the development of stronger, more coordinated petroleum shortage response plans. The workshop generated similar insights to those of the southeast, as well as a strong desire to begin enhancing regional coordination for petroleum shortages (see here for the workshop summary).

Western Petroleum Shortage Response Collaborative (WPSRC) Initiative

Given the high level of interest generated throughout the western states during the workshop in 2019, Hagerty is currently supporting DOE, NASEO, and NEMA in the formation of a Western Petroleum Shortage Response Collaborative (WPSRC). The Collaborative initiative is focused on facilitating the coordination and development of a regional petroleum shortage response framework among a subset of western states and building upon the lessons learned from the 2019 workshop.

The WPSRC is the first official working group in the western US comprised of key players with both energy and emergency management expertise. These leaders have the unique task of planning for regional catastrophic fuel shortages. WPSRC members have benefitted from deliberate examination, dissection, and cross-referencing of existing western state and regional response plans, concepts, and annexes, and will leverage peer expertise to improve respective state plans while working toward a regional framework. Upon project completion, WPSRC participants will have access to a new regional fuel response framework, insights for enhanced state emergency fuel plans, and a developed network collaborative of trusted, established partners that can be leveraged for future regional planning initiatives and during real-world events. NEMA, NASEO, DOE, and Hagerty will also use the framework as the basis for a template and guidance that they will make available to other regions in the US to facilitate similar collaborative efforts.

NEMA Petroleum Shortage Pilot Exercise

Findings from the petroleum shortage workshops identified the need to develop and test more robust state-level incident response plans for petroleum disruptions. As part of the WPSRC initiative, NEMA selected a member state for a pilot petroleum shortage exercise and Hagerty is currently working with this state to develop and execute a tabletop exercise that will assess participants’ response to a petroleum shortage. The scenario is based on an earthquake that disrupts the primary supply of petroleum, subsequent cyberattacks on petroleum terminals that limit the use of stored reserves and cyberattacks on IT systems the state emergency operations center (EOC) uses to coordinate operations.

While this exercise will help improve operational coordination within the state and with their private sector partners, the workshops and, most recently, the Colonial Pipeline incident have demonstrated the continued need for planning, training, and exercises that test plans and procedures for real-time, regional coordination across jurisdictions.

What’s Next?

As both natural and manmade threats to critical infrastructure continue to rise, so too will the need for regionally coordinated responses to incidents and disruptions; however, the energy sector is not the only critical infrastructure sector vulnerable to these hazards. Earlier this week, computer networks at JBS – the world’s largest meat supplier – were hacked, temporarily shutting down some operations in the US, Australia, and Canada.

In the wake of these recent, high-profile attacks on critical US infrastructure, state and local governments as well as private companies are acknowledging the need for increased security measures and enhanced regional coordination and are making progress to better understand their risks – this includes formalizing regional partnerships to protect against future shortages and lifeline disruptions. While establishing these partnerships is critical, it is just the beginning. State and local governments, and their private sector partners, will need to exercise their regional coordination plans, continue to expand their partnership networks, and train relevant staff on how to execute continuity of operations plans and procedures to ready themselves for potential future incidents to come.

Hagerty Can Help

Hagerty has the experience and expertise to support organizations in cybersecurity preparedness and infrastructure resilience efforts, as well as petroleum shortage planning, business continuity, and Continuity of Operations (COOP). We stand ready to help with your organization’s assessment, planning, training, and exercise needs to enhance cybersecurity and emergency response strategies. Contact us to learn more about our cybersecurity, energy sector, and COOP offerings and capabilities.


Rob Denaburg is a Senior Managing Associate in Hagerty’s Preparedness Division. Rob serves as a lead in Hagerty’s Critical Infrastructure Preparedness work, with a focus on energy. Rob has worked with public and private sector clients to minimize the societal, economic, and national security impacts of infrastructure outages and build resilience against severe natural and manmade hazards.

Ashley Wargo is a Senior Managing Associate in the Preparedness Division out of Hagerty’s Austin, TX office. Ashley serves as the firm’s lead for energy preparedness, working with clients at local, state, and national levels to enhance preparedness efforts through planning, training, exercise, and operations analysis. She works with clients to gather actionable information that can be used to formulate and prioritize improvement actions to enhance response efficiency and service delivery to municipalities and customers.

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The Hagerty Advantage: Our People – Savita Goel

Savita Goel serves as the Deputy Director for Hagerty’s Infrastructure Resilience Division. 

Tell us about yourself and how your career path led you to Hagerty Consulting.

I began my career as a structural engineer in India and later worked in Malaysia for few years; this is where my desire to work on infrastructure development projects, in an international environment, began. Throughout my careers, I have been lucky to have opportunities to transition organically between engineering career fields – starting with engineering for new development projects followed by forensic engineering. These roles involved engineering services for pre- and post-disaster management such as insurance claim management, risk mitigation assessments for property insurance, risk mitigation for utility infrastructure and/ or healthcare portfolios.

Then, after the financial crisis of 2008, I decided to go to business school with the intention of focusing on corporate strategy; however, I realized my passion for finance, specifically project financing. One of my advisors shared Hagerty’s job posting. I had heard of Hagerty previously from a colleague, so I decided to apply. Since I am still here, I would say it is a pretty good match!

What do you find most rewarding about working in the field of emergency management?

Our work presents opportunities to work alongside local and state government clients as their trusted partners while they navigate the challenging path of response and recovery after a disaster. Our teams work tirelessly with clients to provide them timely information on policy and guidelines for use of federal funds which enables them to focus on their response to the disaster at hand. It is very humbling when I realize that this work has potential to make a tangible difference to a community by mitigating financial risk to their federal funding which enables their recovery as well as investment to build back in a more resilient manner.

As the Deputy Director of Infrastructure Resilience, what should communities be considering as they rebuild and recover after a disaster?

Infrastructure is the backbone of a community’s lifelines and all community lifelines are interdependent. If, at any point in time, there is a need to rebuild, communities should prioritize building back better. Doing so helps optimize the long-term costs associated with important infrastructure assets as well as minimizes the future possibility for adverse socioeconomic impacts on the community.

Often, communities struggle to justify infrastructure investments; however, while the initial investment may be expensive, it is a lot less expensive than the cost of frequent maintenance cycles and negative economic impacts associated with damaged assets and service outages. When rebuilding after a disaster, here are some key things to consider:

  • Reach for resilience. Resilience planning should be based on a holistic view of the risk landscape for the region looking forward instead of limiting risk mitigation to the disasters of the past. For example, historically, building codes and standards are updated periodically to incorporate lessons learned from developments in science and technology and from natural and/or manmade disasters. Therefore, in some cases, planning for mitigation could be as simple as rebuilding per the applicable codes and standards.
  • Consider the economic impacts of post-disaster rebuilding on the community. For example, when planning to repair a damaged transportation asset, consider alternatives to provide greater mobility throughout the community. In this case, perhaps a transit system will serve the community better in the long run than simply repairing the existing highway infrastructure.
  • Explore the available funding resources. Multiple federal grant programs may be available to use for your mitigation projects. Further, some of the federal grant programs encourage use of public-private partnership such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC), The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Block Grant – Mitigation (CDBG-MIT), etc.
  • Extend disaster recovery efforts to the whole community. Equity in recovery is critical. Once again, rebuilding after a disaster should really be an opportunity for everyone in the community to build better than before.
  • Learn from the past to be better prepared for the future. It is important to learn from previous disaster response and recovery efforts, then update emergency response, recovery, and mitigation plans accordingly. This will save you both money and time in the future.

FUN FACTS

What is your favorite food?

Tough to pick one, but I love to try anything new.

What are you passionate about outside of work?

Running and Travel – I love to travel to new places to run marathons. After running marathon in several metropolitan cities, I have come to realize that this is a fun way to travel to new places and experience their culture.


Savita Goel serves as Hagerty’s Deputy Director of Infrastructure Resilience. Savita is an experienced engineer with more than two decades of experience in management, business administration, and recovery-related projects. She is also adept at assisting firms to assess risk. Savita’s storied engineering background gives her the ability to head teams including management and hands-on engineers, often with projects that deal in millions of dollars of federal grant management and budgeting. Savita is also experienced in assessing risks posed to large urban areas from terrorist threats.

DeBRICing: Our Takeaways from FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) Program’s Inaugural Application Cycle

BRIC’s inaugural application development period came to an end and potential BRIC projects are currently being evaluated by the National Technical Review (NTR) team comprised of mitigation subject matter experts who review each eligible project for cost-effectiveness and engineering feasibility. The review process will take several months meaning eager applicants and sub-applicants will not know their project’s status until July 2021 – approximately one month before the new grant cycle starts again, with the release of the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for Fiscal Year 2021.

First, you need to know that BRIC 2021 could be a significant amount of funding. In a recent New York Times article, Michael Grimm, FEMA’s acting deputy associate administrator for disaster mitigation, said the “agency’s initial estimates suggested that as much as $3.7 billion could be available for the program.” Mr. Grimm also noted that more than $3.7 billion could be forthcoming as COVID could impact the estimate and raise it to $10 billion. With the potential for billions in BRIC funding, state, tribal and local governments need to be proactively scoping projects to determine which are the most competitive for the BRIC program.

Since high impact, large scale infrastructure and neighborhood-scale projects take time to successfully develop, we wanted to jump right in with our debriefing or “deBRICing” from the 2020 grant cycle – what worked well, what may need reevaluation, and how to better prepare your potential project for BRIC in 2021.

What worked well? 

BRIC, unlike its predecessor, the legacy FEMA Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) program, provides more meaningful and significant funding opportunities for high-impact infrastructure and community-based projects. In its inaugural funding cycle alone, BRIC increased the nation’s investment in pre-disaster mitigation to $500 million and the individual project cap to $50 million – a dramatic increase from the $4 million cap for mitigation projects and $10 million cap for resilient infrastructure projects under the PDM program. Moreover, the increase in project funding caps boosted the potential for high-impact infrastructure projects with cost estimates that traditionally exceeded the previous PDM caps. Some additional benefits included,

  • A streamlined application process with 100 percent digital submission through FEMA GO.
  • The qualitative scoring criteria awards points for evaluating future conditions, leveraging partnerships, and obtaining public support through community outreach.
  • Incentives in the technical scoring criteria:
    • For nature-based solutions with applicants and sub-applicants eligible to receive an additional 10 points for inclusion in project proposal;
    • For communities with robust building codes and standards with applicants and sub-applicants eligible to receive a total of 35 points for 2015/ 2018 code adoption and a Building Code Effectiveness Grading Schedule (BCEGS) rating between 1-5; and,
    • For small, impoverished communities in the technical scoring criteria with applicants and sub-applicants eligible to receive five additional points on the technical scoring criteria, in the hopes of promoting their participation in the program.
  • Period-of-performance (POP) extension for complex projects provides additional flexibility for applicants and sub-applicants if the project’s schedule justified the need for expansion beyond the traditional 36-month POP.
  • Removal of time constraint for pre-award costs provides a pathway for FEMA-selected projects to have their initial design work and feasibility studies reimbursed, if the procurement is compliant with applicable federal regulations.

What needs reevaluation?

While BRIC provided an overall more substantive mitigation investment, there are areas in its policy and implementation that would benefit from further review and analysis. Areas for reevaluation include,

  • Increasing the Capability and Capacity Building (C&CB) funding from $600,000 per applicant. FEMA should consider increasing the C&CB project scoping allocation and making a larger initial investment in BRIC’s early years to build and fund potential future projects. This would help communities build a future pipeline of shovel ready projects. Given COVID-19 and its impact on local match availability, many sub-applicants simply cannot invest in initial preliminary work needed for BRIC projects. This is further compounded in States that do not have HMGP Advance Assistance (AA) funding available.
  • Receiving additional guidance from FEMA on project phasing. While not included in the NOFO, FEMA did allow for phased projects to be submitted. A phased project has a scope of work that meets FEMA eligibility requirements, but whose complexity requires additional studies and design development to get the subapplication to the point where a full eligibility determination can be made. Additional guidance from FEMA on project phasing and when to phase a project (what level of design development or environmental analysis) could save communities time and resources on application development.
  • Extending the small, impoverished community designation. Small, impoverished communities have a reduced non-federal match, but many of these communities, who stand to benefit from mitigation activities, lack the institutional capacity or resources to implement BRIC grants. They may not have the resources to navigate the complexities of BRIC, the Benefit Cost Analysis (BCA), and the rigorous subapplication process. Currently, a small, impoverished community needs to be the subapplicant to receive the reduced non-federal cost share amount. FEMA should extend the small, impoverished community designation to the project benefitting area or project activity area to allow for more flexibility and equity in program participation.
  • Clarifying what constitutes an “overmatch.” The technical scoring criteria included five additional points for increased non-federal cost share (“overmatch”); however, FEMA should clarify what constitutes an overmatch. For example, is 26 percent, or one percent over the required non-federal share, sufficient to receive the points or should the increased non-federal cost share be more substantial. In addition, FEMA should provide guidance on how to calculate management costs when applicants and sub-applicants overmatch.
  • Implementing technical updates to the FEMA GO system. While FEMA GO allows for a full digital submission, users experienced numerous issues with the software. Key feature improvements for next year include enabling deletion of draft sub-applications and files; making a downloadable PDF of the full sub-application available; and updating the cost estimate tab so that 100 percent of management costs are captured in the federal cost share.

Preparing for BRIC 2021

Primed with the lessons from the inaugural BRIC application cycle, it is important to start evaluating your potential BRIC projects for FY21 now. To do so, we recommend the following:

  • Establish a BRIC working group comprised of diverse stakeholders. Suggestions include public works, parks and recreation, housing and economic development, utility managers, project and grant managers, and city managers. All of these stakeholders can collectively help identify potential projects. Additionally, they can collaborate and help gather basic data needed to evaluate the project through the use of existing Hazard Mitigation Plans, local and regional planning documents, planning studies, feasibility studies, capital project plans, new budgetary need requests, and climate adaptation resources.
  • Be proactive in identifying mitigation activities and developing well-documented subapplications. Take advantage of pre-award costs to start project identification and planning now.
  • Develop an early screening process to evaluate projects and determine their scope. This process should account for project eligibility, feasibility, cost-effectiveness, environmental and historic implications, and overall competitiveness. In this way, you may avoid committing resources to advanced design, engineering and application development for a project that is ultimately not cost effective or not a viable proposal for BRIC. As a part of this process, it is also important to identify what critical infrastructure or buildings and populations are being protected by this project and to what degree. Additionally, you must consider environmental and historic consultations, prepare project cost estimates, and develop BCAs. This will help as the project matures towards submission. Additional factors to consider include the likelihood of achieving the intended implementation outcome, potential duplication of programs (DOP), the project’s shovel-readiness, agency capacity to support the project through completion, and local match availability.
  • Procure support early in the process to maximize the project scoping opportunity. It is important to understand and follow the Federal Procurement and the Conflict of Interest requirements (2 CFR 200) if consultants are being utilized. Failing to properly procure consultant support can jeopardize the pre-award reimbursement if the project is selected.

Conclusion

So, now that you have been deBRICed, we extend an opportunity for you to learn more about our experiences with BRIC 2020 and our recommendations for BRIC 2021. We will continue to highlight the lessons learned from the inaugural year of BRIC and to discuss how state and local entities can better prepare themselves for the upcoming BRIC funding opportunity. If you are interested in this opportunity, please sign up to receive more details below.

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.

Register Today!

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Amelia Muccio is the Director of Mitigation at Hagerty Consulting and a subject matter expert in disaster recovery. With over 15 years of experience in public health, disaster preparedness, mitigation, and financial recovery, Amelia has helped clients obtain $5 billion in federal funds after major disasters, including Hurricane Sandy, the California Wildfires, and Hurricane Harvey.

Vanessa Castillo is a mitigation and planning consultant with experience in the implementation of the FEMA mitigation programs. Before joining Hagerty, 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.

Millie Starliper is a mitigation and recovery consultant with experience in science and technology, policy, and FEMA mitigation programs. Over the past 6 years, Millie has contributed her expertise in grant management, application development, and project implementation to projects totaling more than $100 million on behalf of state and local governments, private nonprofits, and private sector businesses.

The Hagerty Advantage – Our People: Michelle Bohrson and Michael Levkowitz

September is National Preparedness Month, and, throughout the month, we are highlighting Hagerty employees working to support our clients’ disaster preparedness needs. During this third week of National Preparedness Month, we feature Managing Associates Michelle Bohrson and  Michael Levkowitz, MPA, CFM.

Tell us about yourself – how did your career path lead you to Hagerty?

Michelle: When I joined the firm, I had recently completed my Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning. While pursuing my degree, I recognized a gap in how planners think about growth and development, and the pattern of repetitive disaster loss impacting communities across the nation. I wanted to be a part of a solution to support better and more comprehensive community planning. I have gained a lot of experience understanding how cities, counties, and states manage risk and consider ways to integrate resilience into planning efforts.

Michael: My entry into the field of emergency management began while pursuing my Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree, when I had the opportunity to work with a Tribal community to develop a strategy for mitigating ecosystem impacts from increasing shoreline armoring. Prior to joining Hagerty, I worked in positions with Washington State’s Department of Ecology, the State’s Division of Emergency Management, and supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Risk Mapping, Analysis, and Planning (Risk MAP) Program, helping me gain an understanding of hazard mitigation and resilience-building at the local, tribal, state, and federal levels.

I joined Hagerty Consulting soon after moving from Seattle, Washington to Omaha, Nebraska, where my wife and I moved to allow her to pursue her own career opportunities. Being entirely new to Nebraska, I was thrilled to find an opportunity with Hagerty through which I was able to both plug in to support work throughout the country and support a long-term recovery planning project in my new home state.

What do you find most meaningful about the work you do here at Hagerty?

Michelle: Every day, I understand the impact I am having on communities across the country. These days, there seems to be a new disaster every week; and, I can see states, cities, and even my personal friends getting overwhelmed by the frequency and scope of the disasters occurring nationwide. I appreciate waking up every day and knowing that I get to be a small piece of the puzzle that is making a difference.

Michael: People look to us for help. Across our service lines and projects, our role is consistently focused on supporting our clients to make their communities as safe, livable, and resilient as possible for all residents. Working for Hagerty provides me with opportunities every day to help other dedicated individuals around their country build capacity to help their respective communities more effectively and efficiently.

When you have 30 minutes of free time, how do you spend it?

Michelle: I love to play with my two energetic dogs (Woody and Juniper) and care for my houseplants. If I am feeling more active, I also love to run and do yoga.

Michael: A lot of my spare time is filled with podcasts, but I do my best to multitask when listening. Cleaning out the gutters is way less boring with an episode of ‘My Favorite Murder’ entertaining me in the background.

Michelle Bohrson is a Managing Associate with Hagerty Consulting’s Preparedness Division. Michelle primarily supports pre- and post-disaster recovery planning and hazard mitigation planning projects. Michelle earned her Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) from the University of Michigan and is based out of the Austin, TX office.

Michael Levkowitz is a Managing Associate with Hagerty Consulting’s Preparedness Division with strategic expertise in mitigation planning and funding. Michael has served in a variety of roles supporting local, state, tribal, and federal agencies with hazard mitigation and long-term recovery planning, emergency preparedness, and risk communication. Prior to joining Hagerty, Michael served as the Mitigation Strategist for Washington State Emergency Management Division. He earned his Master of Public Administration (MPA) from the University of Washington.