These recommendations are tailor-made for state and local governments that hope to take advantage of FEMA BRIC funding this year. Pulled from the many questions we receive from state and local governments when advising on this new funding source, the advice below is designed to provide answers to questions you may not even know you should be asking—but that make all the difference to securing funding and building resilience in your communities.
1. Substantiate your BCAs
A benefit-cost analysis (BCA) is one of the essential elements of your FEMA BRIC application. FEMA requires a BCA to determine the cost-effectiveness of a proposed hazard mitigation project. A project benefit-cost ratio must be greater than 1.0 to be considered cost-effective. Subapplicants need to use the FEMA BCA Toolkit, FEMA-approved methodologies, and FEMA standard values or use FEMA pre-calculated benefits to substantiate the project BCA.
How much effort should a subapplicant put towards a BCA? A lot. Unlike the evaluation criteria used to assess the competitiveness of a project under the BRIC program, a project that is considered not cost-effective or has any uncertainty related to the BCA will result in a denial by the National Technical Review (NTR) panel. Subapplicants should include a BCA technical memorandum to accompany the BCA, detailing the data and methodology used to conduct the analysis. Also, be sure to enter justifications into the BCA Toolkit itself and not forget to upload the BCA report and export it into FEMA GO.
2. Think nature-based
In the inaugural year of BRIC in FY2020, FEMA embraced nature-based solutions to achieve both risk reduction and promote the co-benefits of ecosystem services. According to FEMA, nature-based solutions are activities that weave natural features or processes into the built environment to build more resilient communities. Examples include stream restoration, living shorelines, soil stabilization, and bioretention systems.
FEMA incentivizes nature-based solutions as 10-points under the BRIC technical evaluation criteria. The use of ecosystem benefits in a FEMA BCA was also recently expanded, which is essential to promote these activities. Implementing nature-based solutions in combination with meeting the other key evaluation criteria, such as mitigating Community Lifelines (15-points) and Reducing Risk and Improving Resiliency (25-points), will result in a competitive grant application under the program.
3. Go for a competitive federal share
With an increase in funding levels under BRIC in FY2020, FEMA increased the maximum federal share per project. Previously, under the Pre-Disaster Mitigation program (PDM), the maximum federal share was $10 million, and the federal share increased to $50 million with BRIC. While this was a welcome increase, it is unlikely that FEMA will award many these high-cost projects to spread the funding equitably across subapplicants nationwide. Projects of this size will likely have to be fully designed with complete specifications to limit the project's risk of not being implemented.
Due to significant competition nationwide for the maximum federal share, subapplicants should consider applying for projects with a federal share under $10 million or $5 million. FEMA will be selecting more projects of this size for an award, and there is an increased opportunity for subapplicants to secure funding at this level.