The United States has experienced a surge in both the frequency and intensity of natural disasters. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) reports 18 disasters causing more than a $1 billion each in 2022, surpassing the annual average of eight between 1980 and 2022.
As the force and frequency of these disasters have increased, so have the costs of recovery and rebuilding, making it vital for states to invest in building resilient communities and infrastructure.
The federal government offers funding mechanisms which enable states to build and maintain critical infrastructure to withstand natural disasters and support initiatives that can help communities become more resilient. By leveraging federal funding for disaster mitigation, states can strengthen the resilience of vulnerable communities and build infrastructure to withstand recurring disasters, ultimately reducing costs and creating safer and more sustainable communities.
5 Things to Know About Federal Resiliency Funding
Every $1 spent on mitigation saves $6 on future disaster losses.
Over the past 25 years, public-sector investments in mitigation by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Economic Development Administration, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development have saved $6 per $1 spent, totaling $160 billion in savings that would have otherwise been spent on losses from natural disasters.
Federal agencies offer a variety of mitigation funding sources – ranging from energy infrastructure to water management.
Other federal agencies besides FEMA, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, NOAA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, also offer significant mitigation funding. The EPA provides funds for water management and wetland programs, while NOAA provides funding for coastal zone protection. Federal funding can also be leveraged, layered and used simultaneously with non-federal funds to maximize resources.
FEMA’s BRIC program aims to “build a culture of preparedness,” and reduce risks from future disasters.
In the program’s first year, FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program aimed to proactively invest in community resilience by shifting focus from reactive disaster spending. The program invests in a variety of mitigation activities with an added focus on infrastructure projects which may benefit disadvantaged communities, nature-based solutions, climate resilience and adaption, and the adoption of hazard resistant building codes.
The Safeguarding Tomorrow Revolving Loan Fund (STRLF) is funded and open for applications.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funded the Safeguarding Tomorrow Revolving Loan Fund Program, established by the Safeguarding Tomorrow through Ongoing Risk Mitigation Act. This program enables states, territories and tribes to establish revolving loan funds for hazard mitigation projects against the effects of severe storms, droughts and wildfires. The program is the first federal revolving loan fund for such purposes.
U.S. Department of Defense Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Program.
The REPI program partners with non-governmental organizations, states and local governments to acquire conservation easements and land interests for buffer areas around military installations. It has leveraged over $1.18 billion with $1.05 billion from non-DoD partners to preserve 830,000 acres and maintain key assets. With Congress's expanded authority, REPI now also funds natural infrastructure solutions, including wildfire risk mitigation and living shoreline construction, to protect military operations from climate change. Recipients of REPI funds can use them as the match or cost-sharing requirement for any conservation or resilience program of any federal agency.
Examples of Federal Funding for State Resilience Projects
Clean Water State Revolving Funds (CWSRF): New York created a Storm Mitigation Loan Program for Clean Water SRF projects following Hurricane Sandy, using congressional funding. Projects funded included flood-proofing critical treatment systems, upgrading and hardening pump stations, and revising infrastructure to reduce the likelihood of backups or flooding of treatment facilities. The CWSRF offers low-cost financing for water quality infrastructure projects to communities, aiding in disaster resilience. It’s a crucial state-federal partnership and provides financing for various eligible activities to help communities mitigate the effects of natural disasters and extreme weather events.
State Energy Program (SEP): Kentucky’s State Energy Office leveraged SEP dollars for the Building for Resilience and Mitigation program, promoting community resilience by raising awareness about emergency planning, hazard mitigation, and strategies for building resilient communities. SEP provides formula and competitive grants and technical assistance to states and territories to implement energy security, resiliency, emergency preparedness plans, and develop energy initiatives. The program is tailored to unique resources, delivery capacity and energy goals, with the state playing a crucial role as a decision-maker and administrator for program activities.
Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC): Sonoma County, Calif., leveraged BRIC funding to support wildfire planning and wildfire mitigation activities including hardening structures and critical facilities, fuels management, and establishing defensible spaces, such as natural community buffers. BRIC Prioritizes projects which mitigate the risk to public infrastructure and community lifelines, incorporate nature-based solutions, and support modern building codes.
Community Development Block Grant – Mitigation (CDBG-MIT): North Carolina's Department of Environmental Quality used CDBG-MIT funding to conduct resilience planning and reduce future losses from disasters. Funding assisted North Carolina’s Resilient Coastal Communities Program, and the development of the Division of Mitigation Services Natural Infrastructure Flood Mitigation Program. CDBG-MIT activities aim to create a more cohesive federal, state and local effort to address hazard mitigation. They reduce the risk of loss of life, injury, damage to property, and suffering by lessening the impact of future disasters.
Certain federal disaster funding requires a disaster declaration to access resources. To receive federal funding for mitigation projects, including FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration is required. The program assists assistance for the disaster, and in 2021, every state, tribe and territory that received a major disaster declaration in response to COVID-19 was eligible to receive 4% of those disaster costs for mitigation projects.