Leveraging the Hazard Mitigation Planning Process to Capitalize on Investments in Mitigation

There is more federal mitigation money available today than ever before. An estimated $8 billion of Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funding is currently available for eligible applicants.[1] The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also continues to make significant investments in pre-disaster grant programs, including the recent announcements of $410 Million available in Fiscal Year 2019 for the Pre-Disaster Mitigation and Flood Mitigation Assistance programs. Recent changes in federal legislation and a new National Mitigation Investment Strategy are helping to prioritize, coordinate, and direct investments in hazard mitigation across the nation. Hagerty has supported clients throughout the country with hazard mitigation planning and grant management. Through our experiences, we have created and refined effective planning strategies that will help preposition governments of all sizes to take the fullest advantage of growing Federal investment in mitigation. This post, the second in our National Preparedness Month Blog Series, discusses how the transition in mitigation investment influences local, tribal, and state governments and steps these governments can take to capitalize on this opportunity to enhance their resilience.

Obtaining a FEMA-approved Enhanced State Mitigation Plan can help states to maximize the total mitigation funding they can receive. “Enhanced status,” is given to states that have developed a comprehensive hazard mitigation planning program and have demonstrated, in their hazard mitigation plans, their capability to manage increased hazard mitigation funding. States with enhanced status at the time of a disaster declaration are eligible to receive additional funds under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, based on 20% of the total estimated eligible Stafford Act disaster assistance.[1] To achieve enhanced status, documentation and accountability of current mitigation grant management is key, as well as demonstrating integration of mitigation planning into other state planning efforts.

Local communities often overlook or undervalue the opportunity to develop robust mitigation strategies when updating their hazard mitigation plans. Local and tribal governments can position themselves well to take advantage of recent mitigation investments by building mitigation project scopes that are detailed, realistic, and implementable during the hazard mitigation planning process. These project scopes allow for the pre-positioning of resources for when mitigation funding becomes available and a community needs to assemble a grant application. For example, New York State requires each jurisdiction participating in a hazard mitigation plan to develop two mitigation action worksheets that describe project details and evaluate project alternatives. These worksheets go above and beyond what FEMA requires in a mitigation action plan by prompting jurisdictions to consider the project’s estimated costs and benefits, useful life, and level of protection. This upfront planning can give a community the jumpstart needed to implement the action by reducing some of the administrative burden of developing projects when funding becomes available.

As mitigation investments increase, local, tribal, and state governments have an opportunity to implement projects that capitalize on available funding and maximize investments in resilience. Hagerty understands these recent trends in mitigation investment and is ready to strategize with your community on how to plan for and implement mitigation strategies to make your community stronger.

The next post in our National Preparedness Month series will highlight how recent extreme disasters have caused communities to rethink their approach to understanding the disaster cycle and how streamlining efforts in all phases of the cycle can benefit communities.

[1] FEMA Hazard Mitigation Assistance Snapshot, valid as of 12/31/2019, retrieved from: https://arcg.is/aqr8r

[1] Section 201.5 Enhanced Hazard Mitigation Plans, 44 CFR. [67 FR 8848, Feb. 26, 2002, as amended at 79 FR 22883, Apr. 25, 2014]

Sydney McKenna is a managing associate at Hagerty Consulting. Sydney has over six years of consulting experience supporting local, state, and federal governments with hazard mitigation and recovery planning, as well as disaster recovery programs. Sydney is based in the Washington, DC office.

Michelle Bohrson is a Preparedness Associate at Hagerty Consulting. Michelle primarily supports pre-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.