Virginia to receive $66M in hazard mitigation grants
Virginia is slated to receive $62M, which is 4 percent of the projected funding that Virginia is expected to be reimbursed through the FEMA Public Assistance grant program through COVID-19, which the Virginia Department of Emergency Management also administers.
The program traditionally provides 15 percent of the total disaster costs under the Stafford Act. HMGP is a post-disaster funding program that has had significant benefit to the Commonwealth since its inception over 30 years ago. This program has been key in Virginia’s efforts to reduce flood risk, from removing flood prone homes in vulnerable communities like Wise, Pulaski, Chesapeake, Southampton, and Emporia to elevating flood prone homes in Accomack, Gloucester, Poquoson, and Norfolk.
This will be the most significant funding Virginia has received through HMGP since Hurricane Isabel in 2003.
More recently, VDEM has been supporting locality HMGP applications from Hurricanes Florence and Michael in 2018, and are eagerly awaiting approval for innovative flood risk reduction projects in Martinsville, Rockbridge, Pound (Wise County), South Boston, and Drakes Branch (Charlotte County). The first erosion protection project approved in Virginia is currently underway in King George County.
Through an ongoing partnership and support of the Virginia Modeling and Simulation Center at Old Dominion University, VDEM partnered with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development to host 13 sub-regional Hazard Mitigation Equity Workshops. Building off of a health equity tool recently developed to support the COVID-19 Health Equity Working Group, all cities and counties were analyzed and ranked for population vulnerability and flood risk.
Through establishing a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Office at VDEM, forty-one localities were selected for this effort, and to date 10 of the 13 workshops have taken place. The overarching goal of these workshops was to customize technical assistance needs based on their highest priority investment for flood risk in communities with the greatest need.
Incorporating the equity lens into grant programs is not isolated to hazard mitigation. Virginia received COVID-19 supplemental funding through the Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG-S) for which $1.7M was prioritized through a health equity tool for local governments.
“I am proud of the work VDEM continues to do on behalf of the Commonwealth and their demonstrated commitment to prevention and preparedness efforts,” said Brian Moran, Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security. “It is important to focus on the needs and priorities of vulnerable areas, as they are disproportionately impacted by disasters. This is why VDEM’s priority to invest in reducing the risk in these areas is more critical now than ever before.”
This funding opportunity comes at an opportune time, as FEMA recently announced the projects selected for funding through the inaugural year (Fiscal Year 20) of the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program, which had $500M in funding, and the Flood Mitigation Assistance, which had $200M.
While Virginia did not have a BRIC project selected from the competitive pool, VDEM did submit the most projects by state in FEMA Region III, and were only one of five states to submit over $200M in project applications.
Virginia is slated to receive $5M through FMA. This follows a Fiscal Year 19 cycle where Virginia was awarded over $30M in funding from FEMA’s competitive programs, which includes funding a pump station in the City of Portsmouth, and partial funding for a sustainable water source in Loudoun County.
Since 2017, VDEM has been utilizing a stakeholder driven application and peer-review process based on Virginia priorities. For the FY 20 funding cycle, the stakeholder group placed an equity lens on the process, and removed scoring criteria that were barriers for our less resourced localities.
A total of 57 individuals participated in this process in 2020.
“As part of VDEM’s strategy, we will examine the 2020 BRIC and FMA grant applications that were not funded, their scoring, and their impact on vulnerable populations for consideration for the COVID-19 HMGP funding,” said Curtis Brown, State Coordinator for Emergency Management. “VDEM’s ongoing effort to promote and support local government applications has resulted in a pool of grant applications that are developed, prioritized, and ready for consideration.”
Taking this approach will expedite the funding process, as FEMA allows states one year after the disaster to submit projects, for which COVID-19 is still ongoing. These grant applications have already been vetted through an equity influence scoring criteria, have been evaluated for cost effectiveness by VDEM, and have been deemed eligible by FEMA through the 2020 BRIC/FMA application process. VDEM will also consider funding and technical assistance based on the results of the 13 equity workshops.