- Erin Endres
Nine Ways States Can Use FEMA Storm Act Funding
Updated: Feb 8
In January 2021, the Safeguarding Tomorrow through Ongoing Risk Mitigation (STORM) Act was passed into law and granted FEMA the ability to make funding decisions and award loans to local communities as well as bestow capitalization grants upon eligible states, federally recognized tribal governments, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. With this authority, FEMA recently announced that they will be making $50 million available in grants and opening applications for their Safeguarding Tomorrow Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) Program through which eligible states or entities can receive a capitalization grant of up to $5,100,000 to establish revolving loan funds for their communities.
These grants are a way for FEMA to provide assistance in and promote hazard mitigation. Local entities that receive these low-interest revolving loans must use them to reduce vulnerability to environmental hazards and alleviate suffering in the wake of disasters. Applicants can begin applying for loan funding on February 1, 2023, and all applications are due by April 28, 2023.
Faced with such an opportunity, many local and state governments might be left wondering how they can best distribute the loans. Provided below is a list of nine ways states can allocate funds to best prepare for natural disasters, foster greater resiliency, and mitigate the risks of environmental harm to their local communities.
1. Execute Flood Control and Drainage Projects
Flood damage can be detrimental to small communities and cost local governments millions of dollars in repair work. Preventative actions can be taken to safeguard residential areas from loss of life or property and to protect agricultural lands and crops from flood damage. These can include adding new storm drain systems, installing underground stormwater storage vaults, upgrading road culverts that channel water, and improving the capacity of open water channels.
2. Utilize Recovery Mapping Projects
Community collaboration in resiliency can take the form of mapping projects in which residents and local municipalities use mapped information to visualize their vulnerabilities, recognize needs in the wake of disasters, and formulate long-term recovery strategies. This could be a great starting point for local communities to focus on their underserved neighborhoods which are likely more vulnerable and could most benefit from further resilience capacity-building.
3. Retrofit Water Supply Systems
In drought-prone regions, water supply systems can be improved by designing new water delivery systems and upgrading existing systems. Thus, localities can work to eliminate breaks and leaks that occur when water is transferred. This can help mitigate the effects of drought and reduce the amount of water that is wasted simply in transportation.
4. Implement Fuel Reduction and Wildfire Prevention
In dryer regions that suffer both droughts and wildfires, funds can be allocated towards fuel reduction, a significant part of wildfire prevention. Fuel reduction involves the removal of overgrown vegetation through tree thinning, prescribed fires, and roadway clearance. This reduces the capability of wildfires to spread and can protect both natural ecosystems and at-risk communities.
5. Stabilize Erosion Hazard Areas
Erosion can lead to the loss of fertile land, worsen pollution, clog waterways with sediment, and increase the risk of flooding. To stabilize susceptible areas, localities can plant mature trees and vegetation in the coastal zone in order to limit wind erosion, absorb water, and hold the sediment in place. Additionally, hard engineering can be utilized to create structures that absorb the energy of waves and prevent erosion.
6. Enhance Electricity Grids Resilience Against Flooding
Another way to enhance the resilience of electricity grids is through the diversion of flood waters from utility poles that are historically flood-susceptible. Projects can be initiated that develop, construct, and improve flood diversion channels and aqueducts. These projects can be undergone in any region that is vulnerable to flooding, and they can ensure the safety of residents in such events.
In addition to diverting flood waters, at-risk regions can bury short sections of power lines to ensure that fewer residents are affected by power outages in the wake of hurricanes and heat waves. These projects can be especially impactful for residents who rely on home medical devices and are vulnerable to poor health outcomes during power outages.
7. Reduce Urban Heat Island Effect
These loans can be used to protect underserved communities by targeting the urban heat island effect, a phenomenon which these neighborhoods are typically subjected to more intensely. Temperatures in these communities can be reduced by planting trees and vegetative cover. Green roofs and cool roofs which reflect sunlight can also be installed. Furthermore, traditional pavements can be upgraded to reflective or permeable surfaces in affected areas.
8. Retrofit Buildings in the Face of Rising Sea Levels
As climate change worsens, coastal regions will encounter rising sea levels and therefore should consider taking preventative actions now to better equip their buildings and infrastructure. Elevating residential areas and critical facilities above the level of potential sea level rises will be crucial. Additionally, the exterior of buildings can be upgraded to be designed with more hazard-resistant materials.
9. Enforce Community Education and Resilience Building
Creating community-wide programs that allow residents to learn about the ways they can protect themselves from climate disasters and access available resources is crucial in creating community resiliency that includes all members. These could include targeted programs that specifically address small businesses or visit underserved communities. These programs should also be multilingual and consider what specific vulnerabilities different communities might face.
For more information or to get help applying, check out these resources:
Here is a fact sheet, with quick access to information needed.
Check your eligibility here.
States can click here to view the materials needed to start applying for the capitalization grant.
FEMA’s list of allowable uses for the revolving loan funds.
A list of mitigation ideas compiled by FEMA.
Definitions and categories of different hazard mitigation projects.
Explore the 53 projects funded by FEMA in 2021.
For additional help, submit comments to FEMA-STORMRLF@fema.dhs.gov.
Click here to apply for the funding opportunity on grants.gov.
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