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Understanding FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Grant Programs

Updated: Jan 28

FEMA, FMA, BRIC, PDM, HMGP – What does it all mean? The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administers four distinct hazard mitigation grant programs to help communities reduce risks from natural disasters. These programs have differences in purpose, eligibility requirements, levels of competition, and natural hazards that can be mitigated. This article provides an overview of each program and highlights key differences between the two annual grant programs - the Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) program and the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program.



Not sure which FEMA grant program is right for your project? In this episode of UrbanHydro, Shauna Urlacher explores FEMA’s four distinct Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) grant programs to help communities reduce risks from natural disasters. Discover the differences between these programs and learn which program is right for your community’s mitigation project. Also, learn which program has a higher selection rate and why!

 

[00:00:19] Overview of FEMA’s four Hazard Mitigation Assistance Programs

[00:03:04] Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) Program Overview

[00:04:01] Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) Program Overview

[00:04:53] FMA versus BRIC Comparison and Summary


Overview of FEMA's Four Hazard Mitigation Programs

FEMA has four grant programs under its Hazard Mitigation Assistance umbrella that provide funding for actions that reduce risks from natural disasters. These include the Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA), Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC), Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), and Pre-Disaster Mitigation Congressionally Directed Spending (PDM-CDS). Each program has a specific purpose, distinct eligibility requirements, and varying levels of competition.



Learn more about the Power of FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation Congressionally Directed Spending (PDM-CDS) Program by referring to my previous discussion on this topic. Check it out to learn more about this unique program that is vastly different from the other FEMA Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) Programs!


Key Program Differences

The FMA and BRIC programs operate annually, while HMGP funding depends on federal disaster declarations and PDM-CDS relies on hard-to-obtain congressional direction. For FMA, reducing repetitive flood damage is the sole focus, whereas BRIC funding can be used to address broader natural hazard resilience. BRIC has wider eligibility that leads to tougher competition - with only 65% of project applications selected in 2022 versus 85% selection for FMA submissions.


Eligibility Factors Creating Less FMA Competition

The FMA funding comes from flood insurance premiums; therefore, projects selected for this funding must be inside the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) and all the buildings protected must be NFIP-insured. This program is designed to mitigate future flood risks to NFIP-insured buildings so that there are reduced flood insurance claims in the future.


A building must be insured for the mitigation project to reduce future claims. These restrictions result in a very focused FMA program that receives fewer applications each year compared to the BRIC Program. BRIC does not have these same limitations. Projects both in and out of the SFHA and safeguarding insured and non-insured buildings alike are eligible for BRIC Funding. Since fewer projects meet narrow FMA rules, there is less competition for FMA monies. But BRIC’s open eligibility fosters more competition.


Range of Eligible Projects Under BRIC

BRIC funding can be used for a wide range of projects such as flood control outside of floodplains, tornado shelters, backup power sources, and many other types of projects that mitigate risks from natural hazards - thereby attracting more applicants.



Compared to just flooding, BRIC embraces resilience from various hazards like hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, severe storms, and more. And, FEMA encourages BRIC projects that mitigate risks from multiple hazards. This flexibility empowers more communities to apply based on their unique risks and needs.


Key Comparison Snapshot

In summary, while both are annual programs with similar timetables - FMA exclusively addresses flooding for NFIP-insured buildings inside floodplains, whereas BRIC promotes improved resilience inside or outside the regulatory floodplain, insured or not. This makes FMA a less competitive option for its limited audience, while BRIC’s wider applicability fuels its popularity.



FAQ

Can BRIC funding be used to reduce flooding?

Yes, BRIC can fund flood mitigation projects, along with projects addressing other natural hazards. However, if a project meets the eligibility criteria for FMA funding, it is recommended that the community either applies for FMA funding or both FMA and BRIC funding. Since FMA applications have a higher success rate, the Flood Mitigation Assistance Program is recommended.


Do buildings protected by an FMA project need flood insurance?

Yes, every building included in a Flood Mitigation Assistance FMA application must have a current NFIP flood insurance policy. The FMA Program is intended to reduce flood insurance claims, so all properties to be mitigated must have a current flood insurance policy. Communities can sign an Information Sharing and Access Agreement (ISAA) with FEMA to obtain flood insurance data needed for an FMA application.


Can a tornado shelter be paid for using FMA funds?

FMA funding can only fund projects related to flood mitigation. Tornado shelters are eligible for BRIC or HMGP funding. Preventative measures, such as a tornado shelter, can receive BRIC funding since the proposed project will mitigate the risk from a natural hazard. After a Presidential Disaster Declaration, HMGP funding is made available to the affected area to help the community rebuild after a disaster. The disaster declaration will specify how the funding can be used, which may include projects such as tornado shelters.


If my project area floods but it’s not within a mapped floodplain, can we submit the project for FMA funding?

FMA is strictly for locations inside the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). A project that will reduce urban flooding, or flooding outside the regulatory floodplain, may qualify under BRIC. Learn more about Unlocking Funding Opportunities with Urban Flooding Grants by referring to my previous discussion on this topic. Projects that reduce flooding of buildings outside the SFHA will require an independent engineering study and other extra documentation to demonstrate the current and future flood risk.



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