Breaking down the FY2021 FEMA Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities Program

Breaking down the FY2021 FEMA Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities Program
By Kelli Reddick and Evelyn Campo
Aug 19, 2021

FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program is an annual grant program that provides federal funds to implement natural hazard risk reduction activities. When the new program was announced last year, we summarized the key points for applicants in a BRIC 101 article.

The second year of the program allocates a historic $1 billion investment to mitigate natural hazards nationwide. The FY2021 BRIC program has a clear focus on climate resilience and promoting equity by targeting awards toward disadvantaged communities in line with specific federal justice and risk reduction initiatives. Understanding these policy initiatives will be the key to success in this year’s national competition.

Here is a summary of the FY2021 FEMA BRIC program priorities along with a breakdown of FEMA’s decision-making process, designed to help applicants and subapplicants navigate the grant process successfully.

Who is eligible to receive FEMA BRIC funds? 

FEMA BRIC funds are available to states, U.S. territories, federally-recognized tribal governments, and local communities with FEMA-approved Hazard Mitigation Plans.

FY2021 FEMA BRIC program priorities

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Figure 1

Applicants and sub-applicants should adhere to these guiding principles for FY2021:

1. Support subapplicants through C&CB to identify mitigation actions and implement projects that reduce risks posed by natural hazards 

2. Encourage and enable innovation 

3. Promote partnerships and high-impact investments with a focus on critical services and facilities, public safety, public health, and communities 

4. Provide opportunity to reduce future losses 

5. Promote equity by prioritizing 40% of program benefits to disadvantaged communities 

6. Support adoption and enforcement of building codes, standards, and policies that account for the effects of climate change and long-term risk reduction 

BRIC evolution and decision-making process

The BRIC program has evolved from FY2020 and reflects the following changes in funding distribution and decision-making processes for FY2021:

BRIC evolution and decision-making process
  • Increased the state/territory set-aside for planning and C&CB activities from $600,000 to $1,000,000 
  • Increased the tribal set-aside from $20M to $25M 
  • Increased the national competition total from $446M to $919M 
  • Increased points for the following quantitative evaluation criteria:
    +10 points for economically disadvantaged rural communities 
    +5 points for good building code effectiveness grades
  • Increased points for the following qualitative evaluation criteria: 
    +10 points for high-impact projects to disadvantaged communities 
    +5 points for projects that address climate change and future conditions 

FEMA’s decision-making process for awards will be comprised of three basic review tiers: eligibility and completeness, technical evaluation, and qualitative evaluation.

FEMA BRIC review tiers

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Federal policy in action

Understanding President Biden’s Executive Order 14008, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, and the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (Executive Order 13690, reinstated under Executive Order 14030) will be key to developing compliant and competitive BRIC funding applications.

The Justice40 Initiative

The BRIC program is prioritizing assistance that benefits disadvantaged communities, in accordance with Executive Order 14008 and the Justice 40 Initiative. FEMA will ensure that at least 40% of program benefits go towards disadvantaged communities. In addition, the program is awarding additional points for Economically Disadvantaged Rural Community subapplicants and to projects that benefit disadvantaged communities with populations that exhibit social vulnerability characteristics. Data-driven social vulnerability analyses, coupled with benefit-cost analysis, will be critical for this application cycle.

Federal Flood Risk Management Standard

The Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS) is intended to improve the nation’s preparedness and resilience against flooding, including the effects of climate change and other threats. All proposed activities under BRIC must conform with the FFRMS, including the Freeboard Value Approach and the 500-Year Elevation Approach. Correct application of these design criteria and higher standards are important considerations for a flood risk reduction project application.

Putting it all together

FEMA’s FY2021 $1 billion BRIC investment has set off a flurry of activity among eligible applicants and subapplicants—as every community understands the importance of building resilience and promoting equity. Our more than 300 FEMA and HUD experts are on hand to help you navigate the complicated recovery funding and mitigation landscape, while maximizing every dollar to achieve your goals. Learn more about our disaster management and FEMA BRIC capabilities.

Meet the authors
  1. Kelli Reddick, Senior Managing Consultant, Disaster Management and Mitigation + ICF Climate Center Senior Fellow

    Kelli is a hazard mitigation and resilience planning expert with a special focus on FEMA floodplain management and Hazard Mitigation Assistance program implementation. View bio

  2. Evelyn Campo, Lead Disaster Recovery Specialist