FEMA Releases New State Mitigation Plan Review Guide

FEMA recently announced the release of the new State Mitigation Plan Review Guide (“Guide”). The updated Guide clarifies federal regulations that apply to FEMA; policy; and guidance around state hazard mitigation plan for state agencies and other officials developing mitigation plans. The Guide helps ensure a consistent plan review process for FEMA and the states that aim to improve the analysis and integration of evolving risks, such as climate change. The Guide will go into effect in approximately one year on March 6, 2016, for all state mitigation plans submitted to FEMA for review and approval. The transitional period allows time for FEMA and the states to work together to support their familiarity and understanding of the updated Guide. Indian tribal governments should follow the Tribal Multi-Hazard Mitigation Planning Guidance.

We bring this to your attention because states will need to take a holistic approach and include not only emergency management, but also the sectors of economic development, land use and development, housing, health and social services, infrastructure, and natural and cultural resources, in their planning process and mitigation program, where practicable.

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FEMA Implements New Disaster Grant Obligations Process

FEMA will be implementing a new process to award Public Assistance and Hazard Mitigation Grant Program project funds to grantees for disasters declared after March 1, 2015. After this change is initiated in the financial management system, grantees will be able to see project-by-project obligations and disbursements. Grantees will also be required to request and draw down funding by project.

Benefits of this new disaster grant obligations process include enhanced controls for both FEMA and grantees, simplification of data analytics and a streamlined reporting process. This enhancement to the system will assist grantees in tracking funds on a project-by-project basis. It will also allow FEMA to better understand which funds are being drawn down and for which purposes. This will allow a more transparent platform for tracking funds, required quarterly reporting and audit purposes.

This new process will not be applied retroactively to prior disasters. Previously, FEMA obligates Public Assistance and Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds into a single large account where grantees can draw down funds from. Disasters declared before March 1, 2015 will not be affected by this new change and will continue to operate as they always have in a lump sum format.

A webinar will be held on February 25 at 1 p.m. ET to provide an overview of the system enhancement as well as training on how to use the new interface and draw down project funding. Participants can join the webinar via Adobe Connect or by dialing 1-800-320-4330 and entering 455513 for the conference PIN.

A Disaster Mitigation Framework for Cultural Resources

In 2011, the state cultural heritage emergency network COSTEP MA (Coordinated Statewide Emergency Preparedness in Massachusetts) received a three-year Hazard Mitigation grant from FEMA through the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. The goal of the project was to increase public awareness – particularly by cultural stewards, emergency managers, municipal planners, and other town officials – of mitigation actions that could safeguard cultural collections in their municipality. The project encouraged collaboration between the cultural and emergency management communities for the protection of cultural and historic resources. Deliverables included conducting 14 community meetings across the state, offering four Risk Assessment and Mitigation Planning workshops, and producing a framework on how others can conduct a similar program at the state, regional, or local level.  The framework – Mitigation for Memory: A Disaster Mitigation Framework for Cultural Resources is available here on COSTEP MA’s website. If you have any questions, contact Gregor Trinkaus-Randall, Preservation Specialist, at the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.