Updated: Jun 26
On this episode of UrbanHydro, we dive into the world of flood mitigation grants. Floods are the most common and costly natural disaster in the US, but FEMA grants can cover 75% of project costs for flood mitigation projects. Shauna Urlacher is a grant writer who assists communities in securing funding for their projects. We discuss how to navigate the confusing and overwhelming grant application process, how to increase your chances of receiving funding, and the benefits of having a FEMA-approved hazard mitigation plan. Additionally, we touch on the different grant programs available, including local, county, and state grants, as well as acronyms like BRIC, FMA, PDM, HMGP, and others.
Funding Opportunities for Flood Mitigation Projects
Floods are one of the most devastating natural disasters that can occur. They can cause significant damage to homes, businesses, and infrastructure, resulting in tremendous financial losses, and endangering the lives of residents. However, some measures can be taken to reduce the impact of floods, such as flood mitigation. This article will discuss the importance of flood mitigation and the funding opportunities available for flood mitigation projects.
What is Flood Mitigation and Why is it Important?
Definition of Flood Mitigation
Flood mitigation refers to the measures taken to reduce the risk of floods and minimize their impact. Local community flood mitigation activities can be anything from planning and adopting building codes to relocating or demolishing flood-prone buildings. Infrastructure projects such as storm sewers and detention basins are also flood mitigation measures.
Importance of Flood Mitigation
The importance of flood mitigation cannot be overstated. Mitigation projects can significantly reduce the impact of future floods, safeguarding homes, businesses, and infrastructure. They can also provide economic benefits such as reduced flood insurance premiums and increased property values. Additionally, they can help protect the environment by reducing erosion and preserving wetlands and other natural habitats.
Costs of Flood Damage
The costs of flood damage can be astronomical. In 2019 alone, flood damage in the United States totaled $2 billion. The costs of flood damage are only expected to rise as climate change causes more frequent and severe weather events.
To help communities address these challenges and improve their chances of success, Shauna Urlacher, a grant writer and FEMA grant specialist, shares this UrbanHydro episode: "Funding Opportunities for Flood Mitigation Projects." In this post, we will summarize the key information and insights from the episode and explore some of the common questions communities have when seeking funding for flood mitigation initiatives.
1. What are some common challenges communities face when seeking grant funding for flood mitigation projects?
Securing funding for flood mitigation projects can be a complex and overwhelming process, with many communities struggling to find the right grant programs, make sense of complicated eligibility requirements, and navigate the application process. In addition, many communities lack the resources or expertise to prepare competitive grant applications and may struggle to meet the required local cost share for FEMA grants, as they typically cover 75% of the project with the remaining 25% up to the community to secure.
Shauna Urlacher notes that one of the most significant challenges is finding the right program that matches the needs of the community. There are a lot of grant opportunities available, and it can be a rabbit hole to go down to figure out where to start. The other challenge is the competitiveness of the grant. There's a limited amount of money out there, so it's a pretty high bar to get the grant.
2. What role does a FEMA-approved hazard mitigation plan have in the grant process?
One of the most important steps communities can take to be eligible for FEMA funding is to have a FEMA-approved Hazard Mitigation Plan in good standing. This plan must be adopted by the community and updated every 5 years. It identifies long-term, proactive projects and strategies to help reduce the loss of life and property resulting from natural hazards, such as flooding.
Having a FEMA-approved hazard mitigation plan is essential for securing FEMA grants, as it demonstrates that the community has taken a proactive approach to reducing risk from natural hazards and has a clear plan for mitigation and prevention. When submitting for FEMA funding, having your specific flood mitigation project in your hazard mitigation plan is ideal.
** There are funding opportunities available for developing or updating these plans, as well.
3. What types of grant programs are available for flood mitigation projects, and what are some of the most important factors to consider when selecting a grant?
There are four HMA programs offered by FEMA that provide funding for mitigation projects and planning activities, including FEMA's Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) Program, Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) Program, Pre-Disaster Mitigation Congressionally Directed Spending (PDM CDS) Program, and Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP). Each program has different requirements, eligibility criteria, funding limits, and deadlines, making it essential to carefully research and evaluate each program's suitability for the community's needs.
When selecting a grant program, communities should consider several factors, such as:
the availability and amount of funding,
the local match requirements,
the project scope and timeline,
and the competitiveness of the grant.
Additionally, communities should be aware of the program's priorities and goals and ensure that their project aligns with those goals.
Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) Program
The Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) Program provides financial assistance to state, local, tribal, and territorial governments in the United States to help them build and maintain infrastructure more resilient to natural disasters and other hazards. The program was established under the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018 with the goal of reducing risk from natural disasters and strengthening community resilience. This is a new and evolving program.
BRIC provides funding for a wide range of activities. To be eligible, the applicant must have A Local Hazard Mitigation Plan In Good Standing and the project must be:
feasible and effective
standalone, long-term solution (even if phased)
cost-effective (benefits outweigh the costs)
meet all Environmental and Historic Preservation (EHP) requirements
reduce natural hazard risks (such as flooding risk)
The BRIC program is intended to support long-term mitigation and resilience efforts rather than just addressing immediate recovery needs after a disaster. It is part of FEMA's broader efforts to shift the focus of emergency management from reactive response to proactive mitigation and resilience.
The Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) Grant Program
The FMA Grant Program is another program administered by FEMA that provides funding for flood mitigation projects. The FMA Grant Program provides funds for mitigation projects that reduce or eliminate the risk of repetitive flood damage to buildings that are insurable under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
There is less competition for FMA funds, since the buildings being protected must have a flood insurance policy to qualify for funding.
Pre-Disaster Mitigation Congressionally Directed Spending (PDM CDS) Program
This program aims to reduce the loss of life and property damage caused by natural disasters through the identification and mitigation of risks before disasters occur. The PDM CDS program is a non-competitive grant program for pre-selected projects. The projects are selected by Congress before the NOFO is announced.
Only those projects that are pre-selected are eligible; however, each project must still meet the eligibility criteria and submit an application. Additionally, applicants must have a FEMA-approved hazard mitigation plan and their project must have a strong benefit-cost ratio.
Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP)
FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program provides funding to state, local, tribal and territorial governments so they can develop hazard mitigation plans and rebuild in a way that reduces, or mitigates, future disaster losses in their communities. This grant funding is available after a presidentially declared disaster. There is less competition for these funds, as only those areas included in the disaster declaration are eligible to apply.
Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO)
The FEMA Grant Programs Directorate issues a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) each year, outlining the available grant programs and grant amounts. The NOFO also provides information on the eligibility requirements and application process.
**We recommend starting your FEMA grant application in advance of the NOFO.
4. How can communities work with consultants and specialists to prepare successful grant applications?
Preparing a competitive grant application for a flood mitigation project requires expertise and knowledge of the grant program's criteria and requirements. While some communities may have in-house grant-writing capabilities, many must work with consultants or specialists with the necessary experience and skills to submit a successful application.
Since these programs feel a bit like alphabet soup, it can be overwhelming–and many experts, including the consulting firm that prepared your engineering study, may discourage local communities from wading into these waters.
Shauna Urlacher recommends that communities seek out consultants who have experience in securing FEMA grants. This experience is critical because the requirements for these grants are unique and complex, and mistakes in the application can lead to rejection. Consultants can help identify the right funding programs, ensure that the application meets the eligibility criteria, and develop strong applications.
5. What role do grant writers play in the grant application process, and how can they help communities secure funding?
Grant writers play a crucial role in the grant application process, helping communities create competitive applications and maximize their chances of success. They are experts in understanding grant program requirements, crafting compelling narratives, and creating budgets and cost analyses to secure federal funding.
Grant writers help communities understand the grant programs that are available to them and identify the right program for their needs so you can rise above the aforementioned alphabet soup. They can also identify and address weaknesses in the application and strengthen the project's cost-effectiveness. Finally, grant writers can help communities create a plan for monitoring and evaluating the project's outcomes, ensuring that the project's success is identified and celebrated.
6. Are Funding Opportunities Available in 2023 and Beyond?
FEMA's budget for hazard mitigation programs is expected to increase in the coming years, providing additional funding opportunities for flood mitigation projects. Additionally, there are many state and county grant programs, which are ideal for smaller projects or matching funds to a FEMA grant. State and county programs typically award smaller grants, their applications are less complex, and there is less competition.
In conclusion, flood mitigation is an essential means of reducing flood risk and minimizing future flood damages. There are various funding opportunities available for mitigation projects, including those offered by FEMA. Securing funding for flood mitigation projects can be a complex and challenging process, but with the right information and approach, communities can increase their chances of success. Having a FEMA-approved hazard mitigation plan, selecting the right grant program, leveraging resources, and engaging experts such as grant writers and consultants can all help increase the chances of success. With strong grant applications, communities can achieve the goals of making their communities safer, more resilient, and prepared for future events.