As part of fiscal year 2022 (FY22) appropriations, Members of Congress could request to designate a certain amount of federal funding for specific projects in their communities. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022 appropriated approximately $203.1 million to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for 122 of these projects across 117 recipients.
While agencies often have discretion over how they award funds, Congress has directed them to distribute these funds to designated recipients. Members of Congress had to meet certain requirements under Senate and House rules in order to have their requests included as provisions in the act. Such requirements included that Members post requests online and certify that they had no financial interest in the projects. The House also required Members to demonstrate community support for requests. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is tracking the funds to help ensure transparency.
The $203.1 million is intended to support efforts to plan for and implement sustainable, cost-effective measures to reduce risks from future natural hazards; improve emergency management and preparedness capabilities; and prevent, prepare for, protect against, and respond to terrorist attacks.
GAO found that most of the 117 designated recipients of the funds appropriated to DHS’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are local governments such as counties and cities. In some cases, they are tribal governments, higher education organizations, or other nonprofit organizations. The designated recipients are located across 34 states.
GAO’s tracking found that 66 designated recipients are to receive approximately $154 million through FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation grant program for 68 projects that include dam modifications, electrical substation renovations, and river dredging. Meanwhile, 53 designated recipients are to receive approximately $49 million through FEMA’s Emergency Operations Center grant program for projects that include building new structures, expanding existing structures to accommodate needed personnel or resources, or renovating existing spaces where accessibility or technology improvements are needed, according to FEMA officials. One designated recipient, a nonprofit organization in New Jersey, is to receive $150,000 through FEMA’s Nonprofit Security grant program. FEMA officials told GAO that these funds are to be used to purchase and install remote-controlled security doors.
The amount of funding designated per project across all of these provisions ranges from $36,000 to about $10 million. Most of the designated recipients are to receive less than $2 million. Funding will be obligated to state administrative agencies and tribal governments by September 30, 2022. The amount of time the state agencies will have to distribute these funds to designated recipients will vary by grant program. FEMA officials told GAO that the September 30, 2027, deadline for fully disbursing these funds may pose a challenge for some projects because several of them must first undergo environmental and historic preservation reviews. According to FEMA officials, FEMA will not allow the award recipients to access funds for these projects until the reviews are completed, which may take many months.
GAO found that in 33 of the 34 states where projects will be performed, FEMA plans to administer the funds through state administrative agencies—entities responsible for managing FEMA grant programs at the state level. The only funds that will not pass through state administrative agencies are those designated for four tribal government recipients, which are to receive funds directly from FEMA. In Alaska, a tribal government is the only designated recipient.
FEMA does not plan to directly monitor the funds that state agencies distribute to designated recipients. Instead the agency’s regional offices are to ensure that the state administrative agencies take measures to monitor the designated recipients’ use of these funds. In contrast, FEMA is to directly monitor tribal government recipients because those recipients opted to receive funds directly from FEMA rather than through state administrative agencies.
However, FEMA told GAO that it plans to verify that state administrative agencies and tribal governments have registered in both the System for Award Management (through which entities must register to receive federal funds) and the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (a government-wide database that contains information to support award decisions). FEMA also plans to ensure that state agencies verify that the designated recipients receiving funds through them are ready to receive these funds. Additionally, FEMA plans to conduct fiscal integrity assessments when reviewing applications for these funds to determine whether the state administrative agencies and tribal government recipients can meet the management and fiscal responsibilities associated with executing these funds.
Although FEMA plans to use its standard grant monitoring mechanisms to monitor the state administrative agencies, FEMA officials told GAO that state agencies may face challenges in securing funds to cover the administrative costs associated with distributing and monitoring the designated funds.