The Biden-Harris administration announced the launch of a new Voluntary Community-Driven Relocation program, led by the Department of the Interior, to assist tribal communities severely impacted by climate-related environmental threats.
Through investments from President Joseph R. Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act, the Department of the Interior is committing $115 million for 11 severely impacted tribes to advance relocation efforts and adaptation planning. Additional support for relocation will be provided by FEMA and the Denali Commission.
This announcement is part of larger efforts being undertaken by the Community-Driven Relocation Subcommittee as part of the White House National Climate Task Force, which the White House launched in August 2022. This Interagency Subcommittee is co-led by FEMA and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI).
“Now more than ever, communities across the nation are making, or have already made, the tough decision to seek higher ground and relocate away from harm’s way,” said FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell. “As climate change continues to displace people, FEMA, alongside our federal partners, will continue to use every tool at our disposal, including community-driven relocation, to make all communities more resilient, especially those that have been historically underserved.”
Community-Driven Relocation Subcommittee
The phrase “community-driven relocation” is deliberate. The intent is to collectively reinforce that it is essential for the consideration or implementation of planned relocation projects to be grounded in a community’s ability to define and determine their future.
The interagency Community-Driven Relocation Subcommittee aims to bridge the gap between communities seeking assistance with relocation and the resources available across the federal government. Within the subcommittee, there is representation from the White House and 14 federal agencies.
FEMA Mitigation Grants Available for Relocation Projects
FEMA will continue to provide communities with appropriate support to facilitate their relocation priorities. To date, FEMA mitigation grant funds can support relocations through multiple funding streams. This includes Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) grant programs through buyouts of individual properties, relocation of critical facilities, and in a few cases includes the movement of entire communities. Multiple FEMA programs can be leveraged for relocation funding.
Approximately $17.7 million has been provided, or is in the process of being provided, to assist the Newtok Village, the Native Village of Napakiak, and Quinault Indian Nation in their efforts to acquire, demolish and build new infrastructure out of harm’s way. These projects were funded with grants from the following three programs Building Resilient Infrastructure and Community, Hazard Mitigation Grant Program and a 2019 sunset grant program known as Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program. In addition, through Legislative Pre-Disaster Mitigation Community, the Quinault Indian Nation received a Congressional appropriation of $1.4 million.
A fact sheet summarizing these projects and more information about FEMA’s efforts to support community-driven relocation can be found here.