- Christine Guinessey
Why Maryland Should Pass State Senate Bill 901
The intent of Maryland State Senate Bill 901: An ACT concerning Public Safety–Emergency Management – Resilient Maryland Revolving Loan is to accelerate Maryland’s resilience strategy and leverage available federal resources. The Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), which would administer the Revolving Loan Fund, must prioritize making loans to projects it determines to have the greatest impact on eliminating hazards. The fund may be used only to provide low- or no-interest loans to local governments and nonprofit organizations for local resilience projects.
The bill will facilitate Maryland’s ability to attract and deploy federal government funds – particularly FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) fund. It will assist Maryland local governments to invest in cost-effective resilience measures that will save six dollars for each dollar spent in future disaster costs, and it will enable resilience measures to be more equitably identified, planned and implemented across the state.
In 2020, FEMA opened a grant application process for $660 million via the BRIC program. Section 1234 of the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018 authorizes the National Public Infrastructure Pre-Disaster Mitigation Fund (NPIPDM), which allows the President to set aside 6% from the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) with respect to each major disaster. FEMA’s BRIC program is a prime recipient and disburser of these funds. However, in order for the state to access them, they often have matching requirements – currently 25%. In other words, for every $1 that Maryland invests in resilience, the federal government will contribute $3.
Furthermore, on January 1, 2021 the STORM Act – State Revolving Loan Program was signed into law which now opens the door to the banks loaning the federal government the funds needed by our property owners. Maryland can and should be the first state in the nation to create a state revolving loan program in order to be prepared to utilize the coming loan monies to retrofit the state’s high flood risk buildings and become flood resilient.
The need is overwhelming. According to NOAA (https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/), Maryland has had 60 billion-dollar extreme natural events between 1980 and 2020, 16 (25%) of which have occurred in the last five years. If the average of the last five years ($2 billion) is maintained, natural disasters will cost the state of Maryland $60 billion more by 2050. If the trend line continues to accelerate, this number could be much higher. The proposed Revolving Loan Fund legislation will enable MEMA to work with environmentally and economically vulnerable communities to help them leverage outside resources to make their communities more resilient, sustainable, and attractive.
Maryland can enhance its national profile and commitment to resilience by embedding the revolving loan fund in a suite of legislation that emphasizes resilience. Currently, most state disaster management strategies privilege emergency response over either resilience or long-term recovery. This means that they tend to be reactive instead of proactive, and their approach tends to be situational and lead to escalating costs over time, which is by definition, unsustainable.
Maryland’s new approach should reduce costs, protect lives, livelihoods, and living environments, and enhance the sustainability, not just of larger metro areas, but also of more environmentally and economically vulnerable communities.