Committee Passes Peters & Cassidy Bipartisan Bill to Simplify Requirements for Hazard Mitigation Grants

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Bipartisan legislation led by U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) that would require the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to simplify its requirements for demonstrating the cost-effectiveness of hazard mitigation grants has advanced in the Senate. Generally, states, local governments, Tribes, and territories (SLTTs) that request hazard mitigation funding from FEMA are required to submit a benefit-cost analysis (BCA) to demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of their projects. Extensive applicant feedback has shown that the current BCA process is cumbersome and overly complicated, which puts small and underserved communities at a disadvantage for accessing grant programs. Peters’ bill would help streamline the application process and make it easier for all communities to apply for funding. FEMA hazard mitigation grant funds can be used for projects that reduce or eliminate long-term risk to people and property from natural hazards. The bill was passed by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee where Peters serves as Chair, and now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

“Too often, complex application requirements limit the ability of underserved communities to access critical hazard mitigation funding that helps protect people and property against disasters,” said Senator Peters. “This bipartisan legislation will help simplify the process and ensure communities in Michigan and across the United States will have the capacity to apply for critical FEMA funding.”

“Louisiana communities need less bureaucratic red tape to better access the resources needed to build protections against natural disasters,” said Dr. Cassidy. “Our bill makes it easier to apply for grants to fund resiliency projects.”

The Facilitating Hazard Mitigations Projects Act would require FEMA to evaluate how to reduce the complexity of its cost-effectiveness requirements for hazard mitigation grants, and provide a report to Congress on that evaluation. This legislation also requires FEMA to consult with SLTTs and non-profit partners as it performs its evaluation. Under this bill, FEMA would still be required to ensure grants are cost-effective and meet all other grant eligibility requirements. 

Below are statements in support of the senators’ bipartisan legislation:

“The benefit-cost analysis at FEMA has been challenging for communities to navigate, while creating barriers to developing solid predisaster mitigation projects. Congress must act now to streamline the approach. The U.S. Chamber commends Sens. Peters and Cassidy for their bipartisan efforts to build modern and resilient infrastructure systems across our nation,” said Marty Durbin, Senior Vice President, Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“The Facilitating Hazard Mitigation Projects Act represents a significant step forward in enhancing our nation’s disaster preparedness efforts. By simplifying the process for obtaining hazard mitigation grants, we can empower communities to take proactive steps in protecting their residents and infrastructure. We look forward to working with Congress to advance this important piece of legislation,” said Dr. Natalie Enclade, Executive Director of the BuildStrong Coalition.

“The Mitigation, Climate Adaptation and Resilience Caucus of IAEM is pleased to recommend support for the ‘Facilitating Hazard Mitigation Projects Act.’ The bill would address the disparity and complexity of Cost Benefit Analysis that has been identified as a long-standing barrier to effective mitigation programs in many locations. We look forward to providing continued input on the process as it is analyzed and reformed. The Caucus strives to support our membership to build capacity throughout their jurisdiction of responsibility, and this legislation aligns with that goal,” said Chasity Schmelzenbach, Chair, IAEM Mitigation, Climate Adaptation and Resilience Caucus.

“When disasters strike, county officials and emergency responders play a critical role in both the immediate response and long-term efforts to recover,” said National Association of Counties Executive Director Matthew Chase. “Under current law, FEMA requires counties to undertake a benefit-cost analysis for pre and post disaster mitigation projects, which can be unnecessarily burdensome and lead to delays in recovery. The Facilitating Hazard Mitigation Projects Act would require FEMA to examine ways to reduce the complexity of this process to ensure resources reach communities more efficiently. We thank Senators Peters and Cassidy for introducing this bipartisan legislation and urge its swift passage.”

“ASFPM strongly supports evaluating how to reduce the complexity and burden of doing a benefit-cost analysis (BCAs) for hazard mitigation projects. Conducting BCAs has long been challenging for communities and the proposed legislation from Chairman Peters and Senator Cassidy will put a focus on how we can make critical programs more efficient, while making communities more resilient,” said Chad Berginnis, CFM, Executive Director.

“The ‘Facilitating Hazard Mitigation Projects Act,’ will move toward streamlining the BCA process and reducing complexity in completing mitigation projects. This will allow us to take another step toward our shared vision of “whole community” resilience and integrating underserved communities in mitigation programs. The National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) welcomes the direction in the bill for FEMA to work directly with stakeholders in these BCA improvements as we all strive to make programs for building resilience less complicated,” said Russell Strickland, NEMA President and Secretary of the Maryland Department of Emergency Management.

“Reducing the complexity of the benefit-cost analysis (BCA) requirement for FEMA hazard mitigation grants is an important step to ensure that local governments, especially small to medium-sized cities, towns, and villages, can compete for these grants,” said Yucel Ors, Legislative Director, Public Safety and Crime Prevention for the National League of Cities.“Streamlining the BCA process lowers the administrative burden and levels the playing field, allowing smaller communities to access critical resources and bolster their disaster preparedness efforts, ultimately fostering greater community resilience. We applaud Senators Peters and Cassidy for this effort.” 

“Embracing the proposed legislative changes to FEMA’s Benefit Cost Analysis not only paves the way for reduced complexity but also instills hope in identifying the benefits of projects that may be challenging to quantify yet remain remarkably vital for our communities. This is indeed a step forward towards a more resilient and safer tomorrow for all,” said Annie Vest, President of the Natural Hazard Mitigation Association.