Investing in infrastructure isn’t just about repairing roads and bridges, it should also focus on protecting and restoring ecosystems and natural defenses. Healthy ecosystems are a key component in building resilient communities that can adapt to the impacts of climate change. Coastal ecosystems and healthy dunes, wetlands, and forests shield people and built infrastructure from sea-level rise, severe storms, and flooding, and provide benefits for wildlife and water quality. The BIL includes a number of new and expanded provisions that will help us build stronger, more resilient communities in the face of climate change.
These investments can create high-quality jobs in restoration work and put communities first in planning and preparing for future conditions.
The BIL provides a total of $1 billion over 5 years for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program. This program provides grants to states, local, tribal, and territorial governments for hazard mitigation projects, helping communities to build resilience in the face of climate-related impacts. In addition to reducing the risk communities face from disasters and natural hazards, this program provides support for community capability and capacity-building, ensuring communities are resilient for future crises and climate change.
As the risks from global climate change intensify, the consequences for our environment and communities across the country will also intensify. Heavier precipitation, more-frequent extreme weather events, and rising sea levels all contribute to increased flooding events that are more severe, intense, and damaging to livelihoods, property, and communities. The BIL includes $3.5 billion in Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) grants, a program that provides grants to states, local communities, tribes, and territories to reduce or eliminate flood damage risk for buildings, manufactured homes, and other structures, protecting lives and property from further flood damage. Entities can also use FMA funding to create a flood hazard mitigation plan.
To boost the resilience of coastal communities, the BIL provides robust funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This includes $492 million for the National Coastal Resiliency Fund, which provides funding for communities to strengthen natural infrastructure and restore natural features such as marshes, wetlands, dunes, reefs, and coastal floodplains. These natural features help protect communities and property from sea-level rise, flooding, and shore erosion. Healthy coastal wetlands provide an estimated $23.2 billion in storm protection annually, oyster reefs and marshes act as natural wave barriers, and living shorelines improve water and air quality. The BIL also includes $491 million for the NOAA Community-Based Restoration Project, a program which provides financial and technical assistance for coastal habitat restoration projects, rebuilding fish habitat, buffering shorelines from erosion, and reducing flooding.
Finally, the BIL provides $500 million over 5 years for the Safeguarding Tomorrow through Ongoing Mitigation (STORM) Act. This program authorizes FEMA to provide capitalization grants to states and tribal governments for establishing revolving loan funds and providing hazard mitigation assistance for local governments. In addition to building community capacity and resilience, this funding will support projects for communities facing coastal erosion, flooding, and rising water levels.
|Category||Program Name and Description||Funding Level||Administering Agency or Office||Funding mechanism||Timeline||Standards||Eligible Entities|
|Community and Worker Resilience||FEMA Building Resilience in Communities (BRIC) – Grants to states, local, tribal, and territorial governments for pre-disaster hazard mitigation.||$1 Billion||Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency||Existing – Competitive Grant||FY22-FY26||Buy American||States, local, tribal, and territorial governments|
|NOAA National Coastal Resilience Fund — Coastal and inland flood and inundation mapping and forecasting.||$492 Million||Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration||Existing – Contracts, Formula Grants, and Cooperative Agreements and Technical Assistance.||FY22-FY26||Secretary may waive or reduce the required non-Federal share||Coastal states, Governments, nonprofit organizations, local governments, and institutions of higher education|
|NOAA Community Based Restoration – Contracts, grants, and cooperative agreements to provide funding and technical assistance for purposes of restoring marine, estuarine, coastal, or Great Lakes ecosystem habitats, or constructing or protecting ecological features that protect coastal communities from flooding or coastal storms.||$491 Million||Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration||Existing – Competitive Grant||FY22-FY26||Secretary may waive or reduce the required non-Federal share||Coastal states, Governments, nonprofit organizations, local governments, and institutions of higher education|
|Flood Mitigation Assistance -To provide flood mitigation assistance for mitigation activities for properties located within a census tract with a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Social Vulnerability Index score above 0.5001; or that serve as a primary residence for individuals with a household income of less than 100% of the applicable area median income.||$3.5 Billion||Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency||Existing – Competitive Grant||FY22-FY26||Secretary may provide 90% of all costs based on socioeconomic vulnerability index/household median income; Buy American.||States and communities|
|Resilience Revolving Loan Fund (STORM Act) – Grants to entities for establishment of hazard mitigation revolving loan funds. Eligible projects include drought and prolonged episodes of intense heat; severe storms, including hurricanes, tornados, windstorms, cyclones and severe winter storms; wildfires; earthquakes; flooding; shoreline erosion; high water levels; storm surges; zoning and land use planning; establishing and carrying out building code enforcement.||$500 Million||Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency||New – Revolving Loan Fund||FY22-FY26||n/a||State; or Indian tribal government that has received a major disaster declaration during the 5-year period ending on January 1, 2021.|
|Social Infrastructure||State Human Capital Plans – Encourages each state to develop a voluntary plan, to be known as a ‘human capital plan’, that provides for the immediate and long-term personnel and workforce needs of the state with respect to the capacity of the state to deliver transportation and public infrastructure eligible under this title.||n/a||Department of Transportation||New – Other||If a state develops a human capital plan, the plan shall address a 5-year forecast period.||n/a||States|
Rounding Out the Build Back Better Agenda: Resilience
The BIL includes significant funding for climate resilience measures but those investments need to be expanded to ensure that we are creating high-quality jobs in the restoration work and are putting communities first in planning and preparing for future conditions. The FEMA BRIC program, for example, needs far more funding than is provided in the BIL. Future Build Back Better Agenda legislation must prioritize a set aside within BRIC for low-income, frontline, and BIPOC communities that often lack the capacity to apply for grant funding. In addition, future legislation should include funding for the creation of a Citizens Climate Corps, and additional funding for the Department of Interior to invest in resilience and restoration.
The BIL includes no funding for the care economy. This funding is needed to support workforce development, expand access to services, and equip those providing and receiving care in the community with tools necessary for crisis preparedness. Any future Build Back Better legislation must address this critical issue.