Americans are at risk from natural disasters no matter where they live. In 2020 alone, there were 22 billion-dollar natural disasters, including hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, drought, and flooding. Because of the increased risk, many states and cities increasingly turn to property mitigation and large-scale infrastructure projects, such as flood protection, to minimize damage and better protect residents.
While these projects enhance a community’s health, safety, and resiliency, many smaller or under-resourced cities and towns cannot manage large-scale projects, enforce modern building codes, or plan for the risks they face. Now, Federal programs can help communities overcome their largest hurdle to implementing mitigation projects, funding.
The new Safeguarding Tomorrow through Ongoing Risk Mitigation (STORM) Act is a significant step towards providing the needed resources and funding for many communities to undertake mitigation projects. The STORM Act will “provide funding assistance to local governments to carry out projects to reduce disaster risk in order to decrease the loss of life and property, the cost of insurance claims, and federal disaster payments.” The financial assistance will come from revolving loan funds that eligible states, territories, and tribal governments can use to strengthen homes, businesses, and infrastructure against future natural disasters.
As the historical approach of rebuilding after disaster shifts towards mitigation projects, the STORM Act will provide a long-term funding stream to assist communities of all sizes with mitigation projects. While the Act was passed on January 1, 2021, it is anticipated that the program will not open to applications until 2022.
Now that the STORM Act has established a consistent, sustainable funding stream for mitigation projects, communities can focus on planning for and undertaking mitigation programs once not thought possible. Projects can address longstanding issues posed by natural hazards and be financed over 20 to 30-year terms. This flexibility allows communities to develop projects that meet local mitigation needs, focus on underserved communities, and coordinate with partner agencies and other municipalities on funding priorities that reduce the risk to the most people.
Other mitigation programs, such as FEMA’s new Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program, can complement the STORM Act funding and provide additional avenues to enhance community resilience and reduce the time it takes to recover after another disaster.