A boat tossed by Hurricane Irma rests in the middle of a neighborhood street in No Name Key, Fla., on Sept. 22, 2017. (J.T. Blatty/FEMA)

Federal Hazard Mitigation Grants for Hurricane Irma Top $100 Million

More than $100 million in federal mitigation grants have been provided to Florida communities to reduce vulnerability and improve community resilience to natural disasters in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Florida Division of Emergency Management has approved $108,000,000 in Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funding as a result of Hurricane Irma in 2017. The key purpose of this grant program is to enact mitigation measures that reduce the risk of loss of life and property from future disasters.

“Hazard mitigation funding is FEMA’s way of providing an incentive to state and local governments to rebuild smarter, stronger, and with an eye toward the next disaster that may strike,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Gary Stanley, who is in charge of FEMA’s Irma recovery operations in Florida.

In general, state, local and tribal governments and certain private nonprofits may apply although a local government may apply on behalf of an individual or property owner. Eligible projects may include:

  •  Acquisition, relocation or elevation of structures subject to repetitive flooding.
  •  Planning for hazard mitigation projects.
  •  Flood risk reduction measures such as drainage improvements or storm water management facilities.
  •  Installing generators to ensure critical infrastructure remains operational.
  •  Utility protective measures such as burying electric power lines to make utility systems more resilient.
  •  Wildfire risk reduction projects to reduce a community’s risk from fire.
  •  Safe room construction for life safety protection during severe wind events.

HMGP grants are managed by the state and funded under Section 404 of the Robert T. Stafford Act, the 1988 law that governs FEMA’s disaster-related activities. Available HMGP funding is allocated on a three-tiered system, starting with the impacted counties included in the relevant disaster declaration, per Florida Administrative Code 27P-22. Each county has a Local Mitigation Strategy Working Group, whose responsibility it is to identify, prioritize, and submit project applications to the state for review.

In addition, Florida manages the HMGP program under the Program Administration by States (PAS) with all allowable responsibilities delegated to the state. This streamlines the grant approval process allowing communities to get the hazard mitigation funds they need faster. Florida is the only state in the nation to have all nine responsibilities delegated. Florida streamlined the process even further by entering into an agreement with FEMA to become the first state in the nation to be a Non-Federal Representative to complete Environmental and Historic Preservation reviews.

HMGP is an important source of federal disaster assistance. HMGP funds may become available following the president’s declaration of a major disaster, and help strengthen communities by improving buildings, facilities, residential structures and infrastructure that people use every day. A 2018 report from the National Institute of Building Sciences found that one dollar spent on hazard mitigation will save more than six dollars of recovery and rebuilding costs in a future disaster.

Generally, HMGP may provide a state, tribe or territory with grants up to 15 percent of the total disaster grants awarded by FEMA for a federally-declared disaster. States such as Florida that meet higher mitigation planning criteria may qualify for a higher percentage.

Florida has a FEMA-approved Enhanced Mitigation Plan, making the state eligible for HMGP funding not to exceed 20 percent of the estimated total amount of money spent by FEMA on disaster grants in the Hurricane Irma disaster. HMGP reimburses the state up to 75 percent of eligible costs for mitigation projects. The remaining amount comes from other sources such as state and local assets and a combination of cash and in-kind sources.

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