Understanding the Adaptation Provisions of the Sandy Disaster Relief Appropriations Act

Disaster relief funding presents an opportunity for state and local governments to rebuild in a manner that anticipates and responds to future changes in the climate. In most cases, programs funded through disaster relief appropriations, such as the Sandy Relief Act, provide administering agencies with enough authority to prepare for climate changes during the rebuilding process. 

As part of a Georgetown Climate Center analysis of the Sandy Relief Act, the Center has identified the opportunities below to use direct disaster relief funds for adaptive projects that help communities prepare for future climate change impacts.  

  • FEMA could use its authority to “modify” eligible costs or to allow for hazard mitigation under the PA Program to more specifically allow for improvements to public facilities that will increase their long-term resilience to impacts from climate change.
  • FEMA could change its method of calculating “cost-effectiveness” to greater account for the long-term threats to facilities posed by climate change.
  • Other federal agencies could consider including criteria when issuing grants (similar to those applied by HUD in administering CDBG funding) to encourage communities to assess the long-term vulnerabilities of projects that will be funded with disaster relief.
  • FHWA and FTA could consider the entire design life of a facility when reimbursing state and local governments, which may permit these agencies to allow for improvements that strengthen the resilience of the facility to future impacts during the rebuilding process.
  • State and local governments could use CDBG funds or HMGP funds to make up the cost difference needed to adapt facilities.
  • State and local governments can use SRF funds to improve wastewater and drinking water treatment facilities.
  • State and local governments can prepare for future disasters by enacting codes and standards that require public facilities to be constructed to higher standards. 
  • State and local governments could work with entities that develop design standards or model codes (such as AASHTO and ICC) to assist them in devising higher standards for the construction of certain facilities.
  • State and local governments can prepare for future disasters by incorporating consideration of climate change in hazard mitigation plans.

 

Publication Date: May 24, 2013

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