The Hagerty Advantage – Our People: Vanessa Castillo, Liston Conrad, and Scott Baldwin

Here at Hagerty, we truly believe the advantage is our people. Given the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) recent announcements in its Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) and Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) programs over the past few weeks, we are excited to recognize the importance of proactive investments in community resilience this month by highlighting the work and perspective of several Hagerty Mitigation professionals.

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

Vanessa Castillo: I am an urban planner by trade and have always believed in adapting our built environment so that it functions not only for us but also reflects and adapts to the natural environment that it exists in. I started in Mitigation as a hazard mitigation planner for the Florida Division Emergency Management (FDEM). My career in Mitigation then brought me to the Colorado Division of Emergency Management (CDEM), where, as a mitigation specialist, I took a deep dive into implementing mitigation projects, including those that became critical to the work following Colorado’s historic floods in 2013. After my role with FDEM, I served as the City of Denver’s Environmental Planner, ensuring that critical housing and economic development projects successfully navigated the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) environmental review process. I was excited to get back into the mitigation world, especially in light of the unprecedented changes in the FEMA mitigation programs. Hagerty continues to provide me opportunities to help communities decipher these programs and put the funding to use in significant ways — critical wildfire, drought, and flood mitigation across the country. 

Liston Conrad: I obtained my Bachelor of Science (BS) in Commerce and Business Administration at the University of Alabama (UA) before pursuing my Master of Accountancy. Upon passing the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam, I quickly realized the traditional accounting route was not for me. Right out of college, I worked for a CPA firm that, as an extension of its disaster recovery department, helped states and local jurisdictions recover from natural disasters. Through this experience, I had the opportunity to support a Gulf Coast state in its recovery from Hurricane Katrina for five years before moving west to assist a Rocky Mountain state with a hazard mitigation acquisition project. As that project came to a close, I moved to the East Coast to manage a HUD Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) housing program, assisting a community with recovery efforts from Hurricane Matthew. After almost 10 years of experience, I joined Hagerty Consulting.

Scott Baldwin: Before working at Hagerty, I worked for the state of Colorado as a hazard mitigation professional for 10 years in various capacities. During that time, I saw a significant evolution of FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) program. In 2018, the passage of the Disaster Recovery Reform Act (DRRA) signaled a watershed moment for hazard mitigation. Specifically, the significant increase in funding posed a considerable challenge to communities across the country as there was now a greater need for expertise in this area to assist and guide communities in accessing this funding. At that point, I knew I could no longer serve communities with the greatest need in my current position and sought a challenge that would enable me to assist communities with significant mitigation needs. Ultimately, I was excited both by the caliber of professionals at Hagerty as well as its commitment to serving its clients with integrity and excellence.

2. What do you find most rewarding about working in the field of emergency management, specifically mitigation?

Vanessa Castillo: The work I do with communities to get impactful mitigation projects funded and completed is the most rewarding aspect of my job. Especially now, as the field is prioritizing communities that are most vulnerable to the social, economic, cultural, and environmental disruptions caused by natural disasters. As I see award-winning projects come to completion, I am eager to see how this work will improve how communities bounce back from future disaster disruptions. I am excited to participate in projects that prioritize whole community resiliency and climate adaptation. Climate change is not a distant possibility; it is a present-day reality and one that needs our urgent and engaged attention. Many of the mitigation projects being put forth today meet that need, and I am happy to be a part of a team that provides communities with the tools they need to get this urgent work done. 

Liston Conrad: The most rewarding aspect of my work involves assisting local jurisdictions with project development and seeing the projects awarded and implemented, reducing community risk. Mitigation involves forward-looking activities and proactive investments in community resilience to minimize the risks of future disaster suffering. A lot of the time, building strong relationships with community leaders is a critical component of my work. Informing local jurisdictions of the available mitigation opportunities and working closely with them to develop a project that strengthens their community is very rewarding.

Scott Baldwin: I find reward in helping communities identify and put forth the strongest mitigation proposals possible that address community needs and capacity while fully accounting for all the resources necessary to successfully implement projects in accordance with all applicable programmatic, environmental, and historic preservation, and procurement requirements. 

3. With the increase in BRIC funding, what should emergency management professionals know?

Vanessa Castillo: With the increase in BRIC funding, emergency management professionals must engage their counterparts in community planning, economic development, transportation, and other applicable professions to identify and scope projects that meet the goals and priorities of the BRIC program. FEMA has expanded the BRIC program to address the future risks of natural disasters and hazards, including devastating wildfires, severe heat waves, and chronic drought conditions. These circumstances mean that mitigation exceeds the emergency management profession and must be addressed in a multi-disciplined approach where all relevant stakeholders are brought to the table.

Liston Conrad: While the increase in funding opens many doors and opportunities to enrich communities and bolster resiliency, emergency management professionals must recognize the program’s highly selective and nationally competitive allocation process. It is never too early to begin project development, whether that is engineering design or feasibility studies. BRIC projects are large in scale and must have resources devoted to both sub-application development and project implementation.

Scott Baldwin: With the significant increase in BRIC funding made available to communities, emergency management professionals must know that this funding is incredibly time- and labor-intensive to access. In addition, this added funding is forcing FEMA to re-evaluate how it defines mitigation, particularly as communities are experiencing the increasingly dire impacts of climate change. Thus, as the number and intensity of climate disaster events continue to grow, FEMA’s HMA program is expected to expand accordingly with numerous anticipated updates in the coming years. 

That said, FEMA’s last HMA guidance was issued in 2015; and, to adequately address the ever-expanding needs and consequences of climate change, the guidance should be refreshed to expressly encourage projects that aim to minimize carbon footprints and inherently reduce wildfire, flood, and drought risks both on a national and global scale.This year’s BRIC Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) encourages communities to incorporate nature-based solutions designed to reduce carbon emissions and evaluate the carbon footprint of projects they are proposing. In my opinion, these are the first steps toward the federal government’s recognition that a “whole community” approach to leveraging all available funding, inclusive of mitigation, must be used to address climate impacts.

4. How can communities best utilize available federal mitigation funding to strengthen their community’s climate resilience?

Vanessa Castillo: Communities must utilize the funding mechanisms that help them develop mitigation strategies. The federal mitigation programs offer various tools to help communities develop mitigation strategies and projects. Under BRIC, these resources include non-financial Direct Technical Assistance (DTA) and Capability and Capacity Building (C&CB). Through non-financial DTA, FEMA helps communities identify, develop, and implement mitigation strategies. Under C&CB activities, communities can submit for project scoping funds to help build the technical body of work needed to support FEMA mitigation project sub-applications. Communities interested in either DTA or applying under C&CB should engage their State Hazard Mitigation Officer (SHMO) early in the application process to obtain their buy-in for the community’s proposal. 

Liston Conrad: With FEMA making over $2 million available through the BRIC program this grant cycle, local jurisdictions have never been in a better position to pursue mitigation dollars to strengthen their communities. Depending on the region’s geographical location and potential hazards, communities must make resiliency a focus. For instance, as hotter and drier summers continue to escalate wildfire risks in western states, communities must take action now by implementing projects that reduce fuel load and harden home infrastructure against ember attacks. 

Scott Baldwin: The challenges posed by climate change force FEMA to reassess its definition of the eligible activities it is willing to fund under this program. In communities with the resources and capacity to accept the risk of pursuing projects that push the boundaries of what have been traditionally eligible projects, FEMA is now more than ever rewarding applicants. The communities with projects that credibly mitigate natural hazard risk in an unorthodox method and can demonstrate the feasibility of this approach through a smaller proof of concept or via feasibility studies are strong candidates for the BRIC program. I strongly encourage such communities to evaluate the BRIC program as a viable option to fund these activities on a larger scale.

5. What are you passionate about outside of work?

Vanessa Castillo: I am passionate about making sure we preserve our natural wonders and wilderness and leave it better than we found it. I am also a proponent of carless transportation, including bike commuting, public transit, and pedestrian transport. 

Liston Conrad: I absolutely love the mountains. Whether it’s camping, hiking, skiing, or fly fishing, you will find me enjoying the outdoors outside of work. 

Scott Baldwin: Outside of work, I am passionate about spending time with my family and friends. 

To learn more about Hagerty’s work supporting resilient communities, visit our Mitigation and Resilience page here.


Vanessa Castillo is a Deputy Director of Mitigation 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 the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) for Colorado’s largest disaster.

Liston Conrad is a Senior Recovery and Mitigation Manager with experience in the implementation of FEMA mitigation and Public Assistance (PA) programs along with housing and infrastructure programs funded through CDBG-DR. With over 10 years of experience in disaster recovery, Liston has helped five states navigate the complexities that disasters bring, including wildfires, hurricanes, and extreme floods.

Scott Baldwin is a Senior Recovery and Mitigation Manager and a subject matter expert (SME) in natural hazard mitigation in both the pre- and post-disaster recovery environments. With over 10 years of experience in FEMA’s HMA and PA programs, Scott has worked closely with communities across multiple states to identify, develop, and implement mitigation and recovery solutions tailored to their needs.

BRIC FY 2022 Notice of Funding Opportunity: Targeting Equity and Climate Change

On August 12, 2022, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released the Notice of Funding Opportunities (NOFO) for the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) and Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) programs. Given the increased severity and frequency of severe weather and disasters, communities nationwide are contemplating what solutions are available to help them become more resilient – the BRIC and FMA programs are two potential solutions. This blog post will focus on the BRIC program, with additional content on FMA later this week.

For FY 2022 BRIC funding, $2.3 billion has been set aside, with just over $2.1 billion available for the national competition. The maximum project cap is still $50 million (per project); however, the state allocation which includes Capability & Capacity Building (C&CB) has doubled from $1 million to $2 million. BRIC’s priorities for FY 2022 are:

  • Mitigation to public infrastructure and disadvantaged communities, as referenced in Executive Order (EO) 14008;
  • Incorporating nature-based solutions (NBS);
  • Emphasis on projects designed to reduce carbon emissions;
  • Enhancing climate resilience and adaptation; and,
  • Increased funding to entities that facilitate the adoption and enforcement of the latest published editions of building codes.

A Multi-Pronged Approach for Equity

Increased Technical Assistance

This year, BRIC is seeking to equal the playing field by addressing inequities in the subapplication process – where mitigation projects are ultimately constructed. This is being addressed in several ways; the first being the expansion of the non-financial Direct Technical Assistance (TA). FEMA has increased this opportunity to at least 40 communities (doubled from last year). The outcome of this assistance is to help disadvantaged communities in the early stages of mitigation planning and help them develop future, high-quality grant subapplications. By increasing the amount of non-financial Direct TA, FEMA is helping build a pipeline of future BRIC projects within participating disadvantaged communities.

Additional Support for Disadvantaged Communities

BRIC, aligned with the Biden Administration’s Justice40 Initiative, seeks to prioritize assistance that benefits disadvantaged communities. To quantify this vulnerability, BRIC uses the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) tool to identify disadvantaged communities. Areas with an SVI score greater than or equal to 0.6 are considered disadvantaged. This year, the BRIC program modified its Economically Disadvantaged Rural Community (EDRC) technical evaluation criteria to include awarding 15 points to any community with a CDC SVI of 0.6 to 0.79. This helps to expand the communities that can receive points for these criteria even though they may not meet the limited EDRC definition (3,000 individuals and average per capita annual income that does not exceed 80 percent of the national per capita income). This change should make disadvantaged communities more competitive through the scoring process.

Additionally, due to limited capacity and funding, the BRIC subapplication poses a challenge for disadvantaged communities. Developing a high quality subapplication is a time intensive process which favors well-resourced subapplicants. This year, FEMA is allowing entities to apply on behalf of EDRCs. States, local governments, special districts, etc. will need a letter from the EDRC authorizing the applicant/subapplicant to submit the subapplication on their behalf, and the applying entity will be entitled to the 90 percent federal cost share (instead of 75 percent). This change allows for more resourced entities to apply the higher federal share and help communities that do not have the resources to navigate the complexities of the BRIC subapplication process.

Benefit Cost Analysis Support for Socially Vulnerable Communities

For years one and two, phased projects were competitive in BRIC. The first year, 12 of the 22 competitive mitigation projects were phased. For large-scale infrastructure, most jurisdictions do not have shovel ready projects sitting on the shelf. For disadvantaged communities, design, and environmental and historic preservation (EHP) can pose significant financial barriers to shovel readiness. To further assist disadvantaged communities, subapplicants with a phased project and an SVI score greater than 0.80 will receive assistance from FEMA for the preliminary Benefit Cost Analysis (BCA). While more guidance is needed from FEMA on this, we understand this to mean that FEMA will assist a disadvantaged community with their subapplication BCA. If the subapplication does not yield a cost-effective phased project, FEMA will not select a project for funding (e.g., a project with a benefit cost ratio over 1.0). Given that the BCA is traditionally one of the greatest hurdles in the Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) program, this assistance to disadvantaged communities could be a substantive boost for the success of their subapplication.

Combating Climate Change

The other key initiative in BRIC this year is a stronger emphasis on confronting climate change. Two new focuses in BRIC 2022 are:

  • Consideration of the amount of carbon emissions generated by the hazard mitigation project(s); and,
  • Utilization of available data to consider the effects of climate change, including but not limited to high winds and continued sea level rise; duration and intensity of precipitation events; and exposure and sensitivity to extreme temperatures on heat, drought, and wildfire.

The NOFO also encouraged the use of environmentally friendly construction practices when completing BRIC hazard mitigation projects.

To be competitive as a climate adaptive project, the subapplication should also highlight:

  • Nature-based solutions to climate impacts (sea level rise, drought, more precipitation, more frequent storms);
  • Recognition of future conditions (climate, demographic, population, land use changes); and,
  • Ancillary benefits (water/ air quality, habitat creation, energy efficiency, economic opportunity, reduced social vulnerability, reduced carbon emissions, cybersecurity, cultural resources, public health, mental health).

Where Funding, Equity, and Climate Change Align

It is okay to admit that many were unsure how BRIC would assist communities build resilience after the results of year one – 22 competitive project selections; only two of which were small, impoverished communities. Yet, the unprecedented $2.3 billion in funding for FY 2022, combined with the multiple layers of changes for equity, and a renewed emphasis on climate adaptive projects; BRIC 2022 is a true opportunity to help communities, including disadvantaged communities, take advantage of mitigation funding. This is the program and now is the time – “Carpe Diem” (Seize the day), mitigators!

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.

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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.


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.

Want to know more about FEMA mitigation programs?

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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.


Want to know more about FEMA mitigation programs?

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

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The Secret to Mitigation Success: Management Costs

Anyone who has applied for Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) grants knows application submission is only half the battle. Administering and implementing the grant successfully can be even more challenging. As with all federally funded programs, there are fiscal and compliance requirements that must be met to prevent jeopardizing grant recoupment. Document retention, file management, procurement, and expenditure tracking can all be heavy lifts for both states and local jurisdictions. Additionally, managing the actual project to meet all program requirement – i.e. project timelines, budget, and cost share – can be burdensome if the right resources are not in place.

What are management costs?

Historically, the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) offered each grant recipient (State, Territory, or Federally Recognized Indian Tribes) 4.89 percent of their HMGP total to manage the grant itself. The recipient had the option to pass down a percentage of management costs to their sub-recipients at the local level; however, most opted not to because the 4.89 percent was already not enough to manage the program themselves at the recipient level.

With the passage of the Disaster Recovery Reform Act (DRRA) in October of 2018, recipients are now eligible for up to 10 percent of the total HMGP amount for management costs. Not only did the DRRA benefit the recipient, but it also provided sub-recipients the opportunity to apply for up to five percent of their total project costs for management costs. The management costs are reimbursable to both the Recipient and Sub-recipient at 100 percent federal share, meaning there are no out-of-pocket costs for the applicable State or local jurisdiction.

Grant Management through Management Costs

Management costs are designed to be utilized by grant recipients and sub-recipients to manage the HMA grant itself versus managing the actual project (e.g., project management). This helps curtail the financial burden associated with grant management at the state and local level, thereby ensuring more effective and efficient grant management and successful mitigation projects reaching completion in a more fiscally responsible and timely manner.

Examples of Eligible Management Costs include:

  • Application development, including the benefit-cost analysis (BCA),
  • Preparing quarterly reports,
  • Processing payments,
  • Relevant training and site visits,
  • Preparing closeout documentation, and
  • Staff salary or consultant costs directly related to performing the activities listed above.

FEMA BRIC Program Technical Assistance: Source

Management Costs and BRIC

With the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) Program application period now open, proper grant management is even more important as these complex projects may be higher in dollar value. Applicants (states) and sub-applicants selected for BRIC funding are also eligible for 10 percent and 5 percent management costs, respectively; however, applicants must apply for management costs in a separate application. Sub-applicants should include management costs in the application as a line item in the budget and describe how the funds will be spent in the scope of work.

Hagerty Can Help

Our professionals are experts in navigating the pre- and post-disaster funding world with significant experience applying for, managing, and closing out mitigation grant programs for our clients. Management costs can be used to pay for our expertise at no cost to the applicant or sub-applicant.

We are available to talk about your recovery needs, including how to get the right people in the room and access all funding available through federal grant programs. To learn more, contact Hagerty’s Mitigation Team.


LISTON CONRAD is a Senior Recovery Manager at Hagerty Consulting with experience in the implementation of FEMA mitigation and Public Assistance (PA)  programs along with housing and infrastructure programs funded through Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR). With over 10 years’ experience in the disaster recovery environment, Liston has assisted the states of Mississippi, Colorado, North Carolina, Texas, and California navigate the complexities that disasters bring, including Wildfires, hurricanes and extreme Floods.

West Coast Wildfires Spread Across 13 States, Increasing Costs for Support Personnel

As fires continue to burn across the majority of western states, tens of thousands of wildland firefighters and support personnel, including five fire suppression crews and four overhead personnel from Mexico, have been deployed to assist with fire suppression, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. As of October 21, the Center reported that 61 large fires  have burned almost four million acres of land across 13 states. California and Idaho are experiencing the largest active fires, with 17 and 10 conflagrations, respectively. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) reported The Wildfire season, California has seen 8,685 wildfire incidents burn 4.13 million acres, with 31 confirmed fatalities and 9,247 structures destroyed.

Current Wildfires, Forest Fires, and Lightning Strikes in the United States: Fire, Weather, and Avalanche Center

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Weather Service (NWS) issued a red flag warning from 10 am mountain daily time (MDT) to 7 pm MDT for wind and low relative humidity in Colorado’s Middle Park, South Park, and the high mountains of Boulder, Gilpin, Clear Creek, Summit, and Park Counties, which includes fire weather zones 212, 213, and 214. The NWS cautioned low dew points and strong west-southwest winds over the mountains and valleys could result in critical fire weather conditions, including rapid fire growth. These conditions are anticipated throughout Friday in parts of California. Additional red flag warnings due to winds, poor relative humidity recovery, and high fire danger were issued for regions of Texas, Oregon, California, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado. 

In Colorado, the East Troublesome Fire grew substantially on Wednesday afternoon and evening, with CBS News reporting the fire is currently burning at 6,000 acres per hour, with estimates it has moved across 125,000 acres to date. On Wednesday evening, the Grand County Sheriff issued a mandatory evacuation order for all areas west of Highway 34 in Grand County due to its rapid growth.

Less direct impacts of the wildfires greatly impact communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, Clear Creek, Jefferson, Gilpin, Boulder and Larimer counties in Colorado have closed National Forest Land due to wildfires. Communities that have been more reliant on outdoor recreation and activities during COVID-19 are restricted from utilizing natural resources in some geographic areas.

Twitter: NWS

In addition to the vast environmental and physical damage wildfires have caused this year, they have been extremely costly. While the total federal, state, and  local government spend is unclear, Michael Wara and other climate change experts at Stanford University spoke with ABC News KABC-TV, estimating that damage from California’s wildfires totaled around $10 billion at the start of October.

Wildfire Safety Infographics: Weather.gov

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) encourages individuals to prepare and plan for wildfires as these events can develop rapidly. Therefore, it is never too soon to prepare for a wildfire event. Individuals should follow the guidance of local authorities and remain safe as most of the fires remain largely uncontained across the United States (US). The Hagerty Blog Team will continue providing information and updates on current events and disasters impacting the nation, visit Disaster Discourse for the latest information.

EVACUATIONS AND EMERGENCY DECLARATIONS

The Grand County Sheriff issued a mandatory evacuation order for all areas west of Highway 34 in Grand County, Colorado due to the rapid growth of the East Troublesome Fire, cautioning residents to head south on Highway 34. Those who evacuated early are encouraged to register using the East Troublesome Fire Evacuee(s) Registration Form to help with the re-entry process.

To get a breakdown by State and County of public advisories, NOAA’s NWS has provided a list of red flag warnings and air quality alerts in decreasing order of severity.

RELATED STORIES

  • Remember, Ready.gov provides information on how to prepare for Wildfire and how to keep you and your family safe.
  • FEMA America’s PrepareAthon: How to Prepare for a Wildfire
  • The Los Angeles Times regularly updated tracking of California Wildfires: California Wildfires Map.
  • The National Fire Protection Association provides wildfire preparedness tips: link.
  • Marin County provides a wildfire evacuation checklist: link
  • FEMA provides an information video about how to be prepared for Wildfires: link.

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.

The Hagerty Advantage – Our People: Katie Grasty

An interview with Katie to learn more about her professional background and the valuable expertise she brings to the Hagerty Team.

Tell us about yourself – what experience do you bring to Hagerty Consulting?

I am a Hazard Mitigation expert by training and, throughout my time at Hagerty, I have helped our Florida panhandle clients apply for $130M in Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funding post Hurricane Michael. I also helped Montgomery County, Texas secure a $10M Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) grant. Currently my role includes helping communities apply for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) new Mitigation Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program. During COVID-19, I have helped lead the Hagerty Team’s COVID recovery efforts for the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM).

What brought you to Hagerty Consulting?

Prior to joining Hagerty, I worked for FEMA for six years. During that time, I experienced firsthand the agency’s leadership under Brock Long. He made so many thoughtful improvements to the agency and was admired by everyone I worked with. I was excited for the opportunity to work at the company that Brock called home, both before and after his FEMA service. Additionally, when I worked at FEMA Region IX, I was impressed with the quality of work that Hagerty was providing in support of the State of California’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES).

What led you to emergency management and your public service mindset?

Prior to joining FEMA, I worked for the United States  Department of Transportation (USDOT) in environmental policy. A few days after Hurricane Sandy made landfall, my team received an email request from the White House looking for volunteers to go to New York and New Jersey to aid in the response, and I was on the road the next day. I led FEMA’s Intergovernmental Affairs team in Brooklyn, New York under Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) Willie Nunn. I remember how devastated the survivors were after Sandy; so, being able to make a difference and assist on the recovery of the storm was one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. It was at this moment in my career that I realized I wanted to be an emergency manager.

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

I am passionate about mitigation. I specifically remember when the FEMA mitigation staff arrived after Sandy; they were out measuring high water marks and talking to the community about home buyouts. I was very intrigued by this and intentionally chose to pursue a career in the mitigation field as a result. Resilient construction can make such an impact on how a community will fare when the next disaster strikes. With the studies showing that for every $1 spent on mitigation, $6 is saved in avoided damages, the practice of mitigation just makes a lot of sense to me. Helping a community rebuild so it can better withstand the next event is the most rewarding part of this work.

FUN FACTS

What is your favorite movie?

I love Hamilton because I find it fascinating to learn the stories of our country’s founders.

How do you like to spend your free time?

I love dogs and currently volunteer on the weekends at Tallahassee Animal Services. I have two dogs of my own as well as three chickens and a duck.

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Katie Grasty is the Deputy Director of Mitigation at Hagerty Consulting and is a dedicated, committed professional with extensive federal grant program expertise and experience in program/grant management and supervision of staff. She has worked for FEMA and the US DOT, in both cases representing those agencies in the Hurricane Sandy recovery effort. At FEMA, she managed Hazard Mitigation grant applications worth more than $2 billion and led a team overseeing more than 1,200 grant applications. Ms. Grasty is outcome-oriented and recognized for her customer service skills, high quality of work, and leadership ability demonstrated through production of superior results.

Mitigation’s “Green New Deal”: Nature-Based Solutions

Currently, two tropical systems are eyeing the United States (U.S.) Gulf Coast for near simultaneous landfall this week. In the West, California is dealing with significant drought, extreme heat, and escalating wildfires. Each year, storms and fires continue to intensify – both in frequency and magnitude. The impacts of climate variability and disaster activity further highlight the need for nationwide investments in resilience – including a holistic, sustainable approach to hazard mitigation – to reduce continued disaster-related damages and loss.

Nature-Based Solutions

Nature-based solutions may be used in sustainable planning, design, environmental management, and engineering practices to incorporate a community’s natural features, landscape, or processes into the built environment to create a more resilient environment. The overarching goal of these projects is to provide more value to communities by mitigating hazards while also creating ecosystem benefits. This can ultimately improve a community’s quality of life and make it more attractive to new residents and businesses.

Nature-Based Solutions are categorized by both location and scale:

  • Watershed and Landscape – These typically include large-scale practices that require long-term planning and coordination, including projects with interconnected systems of natural areas and open space. Examples: land conservation, greenways, wetland restoration and protection, stormwater parks and floodplain restoration
  • Neighborhood or Site – These practices can often be built into a site, corridor, or neighborhood without requiring additional space. Examples: rain gardens, vegetated swales, green roofs, rainwater harvesting, permeable pavement, tree canopy, tree trenches, and green streets.
  • Coastal Areas – Projects that stabilize the shoreline, reduce erosion, and buffer the coast from storm impacts to support coastal resilience. Examples: coastal wetlands, oyster reefs, dunes, waterfront parks, and living shorelines

Integrated Approach to Hazard Mitigation

Planning and carrying out nature-based solutions can require an integrated approach to hazard mitigation. Since nature-based solutions provide a variety of co-benefits, a single project may be eligible for many different private, state, and federal grant programs. It is important to assess what types of nature-based projects would benefit your community, then identify available public funding opportunities, to include both federal and private investment. Additionally, pooling resources may be a cost-effective way to integrate nature-based solution practices into planned or ongoing capital improvement projects including creating or improving roads, streetscapes, stormwater management projects, parks, and parking areas. Throughout this process, cost savings may also be realized as nature-based solutions cost less than alternative investments – often lessening the necessity of standalone infrastructure projects and further reducing the expense of rebuilding and repairs after a disaster.

Nature Based Solutions in BRIC

In the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) recent Building Resilience Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), the agency encourages communities to consider environmentally friendly, green infrastructure solutions as eligible project types. While nature-based solutions have many hazard mitigation benefits, they can also enhance resilience by helping a community meet its social, environmental, and economic goals.

In FEMA’s BRIC NOFO, the agency outlines two evaluation criteria for BRIC projects: technical criteria (all or nothing scoring) and qualitative criteria (gradient scoring scales). The technical criteria specifically promote sustainability, giving sub-applicants the potential to secure an additional 10 points when proposed projects include nature-based solutions. In addition, if a project addresses infrastructure and has an increased non-federal cost share due to private investment or other pooled state, local, or private resources, a sub-applicant may earn an additional 25 points. As written, we think the use of nature-based solutions provides applicants a competitive advantage for BRIC funding prioritization. This critical funding will provide leaders across the country with a more integrated way to mitigate against the impacts of disaster; while also encouraging communities to invest in our nation’s long-term sustainability, security, and strength.

 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.

___________________________________________________________________________

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.

Sara Harper is a civil engineer and certified floodplain manager with experience in the implementation of the FEMA mitigation programs. Before joining Hagerty, she was a project manager for Dewberry Engineers Inc., managing environmental and historic preservation compliance task orders for FEMA Region IX.  Prior to Dewberry, she was a water resources engineer working on complex water systems in California, Oregon and Nevada for local, state, and federal interests.

Building a Pipeline of Shovel-Ready Mitigation Projects: BRIC’s Focus on Capability and Capacity Building

Disasters cause substantial damage and disrupt socioeconomic activities in ways that we cannot fully measure. It is difficult to predict when disaster will strike your community next, but it is possible to prepare for it. To successfully enable large-scale infrastructure and mitigation projects, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) new Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program, required a mechanism to create a steady pipeline of eligible, shovel-ready projects. Capability and Capacity Building (C&CB) – a new project type eligible for funding under FEMA’s BRIC program— does just that.

According to FEMA, the BRIC program seeks to fund effective and innovative projects that will reduce risk, increase resilience, and serve as a catalyst to encourage the whole community investments in mitigation. To support this goal, BRIC sets $600,000 in C&CB funding aside – per eligible applicant – to enhance mitigation expertise, knowledge, and practice at the state and local level. Eligible expenditures can include building code activities, partnerships, project scoping, mitigation planning, and planning-related activities. This funding is designed to result in a resource, strategy, or mitigation product that will ultimately reduce or eliminate risk and damage from natural hazards.

In the recent BRIC Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), FEMA offers a broad definition of C&CB project eligibility. This will enable greater flexibility for states and local communities as they look to fund the development of mitigation solutions under the BRIC program as well as other federal mitigation programs, such as FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA), and HMGP Post Fire. Given that BRIC is expected to be a significantly larger grant program than PDM; C&CB funding provides the necessary seed funding to jump start development of future projects and it appears FEMA is willing to provide the space for communities to appropriately identify their needs and do so.

UnSplash: Scott Graham

Additionally, when endeavoring on a new mitigation or infrastructure project, public awareness is key to highlighting the co-benefits of the project, such as environmental and economic impacts. Therefore, FEMA allows for up to 10 percent of a C&CB activity or mitigation project to be used for public awareness and education, such as: brochures, workshops, and videos.

C&CB projects will not require a Benefit-Cost Analysis (BCA). Generally, projects will be subject to a 75 percent federal, 25 percent state and local cost share; however, impoverished communities may be eligible for an increased federal cost share of up to 90 percent. While the $600,000 per applicant maximum award may not provide all the funding required to analyze, coordinate, design, and engineer a jurisdiction’s large infrastructure project, it is the first step in the process of building greater capacity to do so.

The BRIC application period opens on September 30, 2020 and closes on January 29, 2021; however, BRIC project applications will take a significant amount of time and resources to complete. We encourage potential applicants and sub-applicants to begin their planning efforts as soon as possible.

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 C&CB 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.

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Scott Baldwin is a Senior Mitigation Manager at Hagerty Consulting and a subject matter expert in natural hazard mitigation in both the pre and post disaster recovery environments.  With over 10 years of experience in FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance and Public Assistance (PA) programs, Scott has worked closely with states and communities in Colorado and California to identify, develop, and implement mitigation and recovery solutions tailored to meet their needs.