Florida communities may get funds for disaster preparation faster because of a new process for reviewing applications.
The federal funds are available as part of the disaster recovery from last year’s four hurricanes. Many communities have applied for money to do retrofitting against wind damage, build drainage projects, acquire or elevate properties at risk, and take other steps to reduce damage from potential disasters.
More than 800 applications have been received, a record number for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), which is funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency and managed by the state of Florida. Normally, the applications can take up to two years to review and process. Now, despite the record number of applications in Florida, the first grants will be approved before Aug. 13, one year after Hurricane Charley made landfall.
The faster turnaround resulted from a new joint review process by federal and state teams.
“The standard way of doing things before,” said Larry Koslick, recovery manager for the Florida Division of Emergency Management (DEM), “was to submit applications for the HMGP to the state. The state then had up to one year to review and send the application to FEMA, which then had up to two years from the date the president declared the disaster to obligate funds for all approved projects.”
After last year’s hurricanes, however, DEM and FEMA established joint teams, which look at each application together. These teams check for project eligibility, the completeness of the application, cost effectiveness, and engineering and environmental issues.
“We are very excited about this new joint review,” said Scott Morris, FEMA long-term recovery director. “It will get money to the people for mitigation projects much faster. Funds for five projects have already been approved and more are on the way.”
The HMGP is administered by the state, with projects funded 75 percent by FEMA and 25 percent by the applicant. The mitigation planning and application development process begins at the local level. The state prioritizes local applications and selects projects for funding.
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