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BRIC 101: Navigating FEMA’s new pre-disaster mitigation program

By Ndubuisi "Onye" Ibeh
Sep 2, 2020
5 MIN. READ
ICF explains how to use FEMA’s new Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program to best address your hazard mitigation needs.

It’s momentous when a new federal funding program is announced—especially when that program is designed to help communities build resilience and strengthen infrastructure and lifelines such as the power grid, food and shelter, and other essential services. And as a bonus? The funding program that FEMA released on August 4—called Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC)—is designed to fund ambitious pre-disaster hazard mitigation projects, allowing grantees to safeguard their communities from the destruction and disruption of hurricanes and other natural disasters.

Here’s a summary of the key points to know now, along with important dates and milestones for applicants to bear in mind. 

What can FEMA BRIC be used for?

Think ambitious, big picture, creative projects. Through BRIC funding, states, localities, territories, and tribes will have the opportunity to:

Build capacity in implementing mitigation projects.
Encourage innovation in public infrastructure projects.
Mitigate risks to applicable FEMA lifelines.
Support the adoption and enforcement of building codes and standards.
Reduce long-term dependency on the Disaster Relief Fund.

While the typical project under FEMA’s prior Pre-Disaster Management (PDM) Grant Program involved construction-centric remedies like buyouts, berms, and elevations, FEMA BRIC projects could include efforts like microgrids, lifeline transportation integrity, and public health enterprise planning. BRIC also emphasizes innovation from its applicants in project conception, project funding, and organizational partnerships—so your best and brightest ideas are the ones to put forward. You can even submit existing project ideas that have not already been funded; there’s no requirement that they be new initiatives. 

Who is eligible to apply—and what are the conditions?

States, U.S. territories, and tribal governments can apply to the FEMA BRIC program. Local governments, including cities, townships, counties, special district governments, and Indian tribal governments, are considered subapplicants and must submit applications to their state/territory/tribal applicant agency.

States and territories must have a current FEMA-approved Hazard Mitigation Plan to receive BRIC funding. They must have received a disaster declaration seven years before the start of the application period. Federally recognized tribes are eligible to apply for a grant either as applicants or subapplicants.

What about non-governmental entities? Can they apply, or partner up with a government?

Individuals, businesses, and non-profit organizations are not eligible to apply directly. But a qualified applicant or subapplicant may apply for funding on behalf of individuals, businesses, and non-profit organizations. This is where public-private partnerships come into play—FEMA wants to see co-investment from multiple community stakeholders (because building resilient infrastructure benefits everyone, and is too big a job for any one entity to take on alone). 

How much money has FEMA allocated for BRIC?

FEMA has allocated $500 million for the BRIC program, double the amount awarded under the 2019 PDM program. 

The FEMA BRIC program will resemble more of a competitive grant. Apart from the $53.6 million that applicants can apply for directly, a national competition will award the remaining $446.4 million. 

What’s the cost share?

The cost-share for FEMA BRIC is 75% federal and 25% non-federal. But the non-federal share requirement may be decreased to 10% for small, economically disadvantaged communities or may be waived for insular areas in the United States if the share is under $200,000.

When can I apply for FEMA BRIC hazard mitigation assistance?

The application period opens on September 30, 2020, through FEMA's management system for BRIC (the FEMA Grants Outcome) and ends on January 29, 2021. After receiving the federal award, the applicant has three years to complete the projects.

Each state has begun to outline local government subapplication due dates so the state can review and file them as the applicant by the FEMA deadline. For example, Pennsylvania has an internal deadline in November and California requires local governments to submit their applications to the state in December. Consult with your state’s State Hazard Mitigation Officer (SHMO) for details on how your state is handling the application process and deadlines.

Interesting that it’s structured like a competitive grant. What do we know about the application review process for FEMA BRIC?

FEMA will review subapplications submitted by each applicant to verify eligibility, completeness, cost-effectiveness, and alignment with approved Hazard Mitigation Plan(s). 

The national competition will score applications using a point-based system based on technical evaluation criteria, including:

Mitigating risk to one or more lifelines.
Incorporation of nature-based solutions.
Mandatory building code adoption requirement.
Designation as a small, impoverished community.

FEMA will also convene a national review panel to score subapplications based on qualitative evaluation criteria that allow subapplicants to explain the strengths of their proposed project related to areas including future conditions and outreach activities.

Anything else I should know?

FEMA wants to provide applicants with as much direction as possible regarding its grants and resources.

You can reference FEMA Mitigation Minutes for details on mitigation projects that fit the bill. The August 26 FEMA Mitigation Minute provides good color and happens to be a project that ICF worked on.

Also, FEMA just released a Mitigation Action Portfolio, which contains 40 detailed case studies of sample projects that capture the spirit and intent of FEMA BRIC. The document notes that “FEMA hopes these project examples inspire stakeholders to think big and bold in addressing natural hazards, while also considering additional benefits that can be achieved beyond reducing economic and human costs from disasters.” 

Again, big and bold. That’s what FEMA BRIC wants to see, and it’s the type of ambitious thinking that we need in order to address the significant threat that natural disasters pose to infrastructure and community lifelines. 

Our experts are reviewing and analyzing these sample projects to help our clients choose winning projects and craft competitive applications. Learn more about our FEMA BRIC capabilities—and remember to think big, partner up, and bring your best ideas to the table in order to capture FEMA’s attention and position yourself for success with FEMA BRIC.

 
By Ndubuisi "Onye" Ibeh

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