S.3418 – Safeguarding Tomorrow through Ongoing Risk Mitigation Act of 2020 (STORM Act)

The Safeguarding Tomorrow through Ongoing Risk Mitigation Act of 2020 (STORM Act), enacted January 1st, 2021, amends the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5131) to authorize grants to establish hazard mitigation revolving loan fund programs. The programs are intended to fund projects that mitigate natural hazards including wildfires, earthquakes, drought, severe storm events, erosion, storm surges, and high water levels. The goal of the federal funding is to support risk reduction for local governments by decreasing loss of life and property, insurance costs, and the necessity for future federal disaster relief.

The STORM Act federal legislation authorizes the administrator of FEMA to provide capitalization grants to states, Tribes, and insular areas to fund climate resilience and hazard mitigation initiatives. These federal grants can be used by those entities to establish revolving loan programs that finance certain hazard mitigation projects and activities. The federal government issues the money to the entity, then the entity loans that money to a municipality who repays it over time at a low interest rate, replenishing the loan fund. Projects funded in low-income areas can benefit from a longer loan repayment period. 

Eligible projects include those that mitigate hazards from: drought and prolonged, intense heat; severe storms such as hurricanes, tornadoes, wind storms, cyclones, and severe winter storms; wildfires; earthquakes; shoreline erosion, and; high water levels including storm surges and flooding. Projects constructing or repairing flood control structures are also eligible, but FEMA requires that the entity determine the structure is up to sufficient standards as a flood barrier before funding can be used for the project. Entities may also use funds to enable local governments to establish and implement the latest relevant published building codes and standards for protection of the building’s users against natural disaster. 

Up to 10% of a grant can be used by an entity to allow local government units to implement zoning and land use planning changes that primarily promote:

  • development of zoning and land-use plans and regulations that encourage low-impact and resilient development, reconnection of floodplains, natural infrastructure, and other resilience and conservation initiatives,
  • studying and developing agricultural risk compensation districts, where farmers can receive compensation for assuming greater flood risk,
  • studying and creating incentives for resilient land uses such as low-impact stormwater best practices, inclusion of natural infrastructure around building projects, and addressing wildfire ignitions, and
  • studying and creating an inclusive erosion response plan accommodating lake, forest, river, plans, and ocean shorelines and bluff stabilization. 

In awarding capitalization grants, FEMA is directed to prioritize applications that: 

  • propose resiliency-increasing, risk-reducing projects affecting natural and built infrastructure,
  • involve multi-entity partnerships to carry our joint or similar projects,
  • take regional impacts into account for wetlands and areas at high risk of natural disaster events, and/or
  • propose projects that increase the resiliency of critical infrastructure and economic sectors such as ports, distribution centers, and commercial waterways. 

States are eligible to apply, as well as Tribes with a major disaster declaration in the last five years prior to enactment of the STORM Act.  FEMA may also provide capitalization grants from a separate funding pool to insular areas (defined as Guam, American Samoa, the Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands). Applications must be submitted to the FEMA Administrator (with the Administrator’s technical assistance), and include:

  • proposals for local government mitigation projects (conditioned upon the state providing no fewer than 6 weeks’ notice to the public)
  • an assessment of vulnerabilities that constitute demonstrable and recurring risks to life and property,
  • a description of the projects’ conformity with the entity and its locality’s hazard mitigation plan,
  • a proposed systematic and regional approach to make vulnerable areas such as wetlands and other high-risk areas fully resilient against natural disasters. 

For another example of how revolving loan funds operate, see a summary of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF)

Publication Date: January 1, 2021

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