The Biden administration said monday it will increase climate resilience funding from $ 500 million to $ 1 billion this year, with the aim of preparing for extreme weather events.
Pinellas County, which has a quarter of its land in the High risk coastal area, is willing to devote its share of funds to local projects, depending on the county Sustainability and Resilience Coordinator Hank Hodde.
“We have a cadence of prioritizing and then planning and designing to implement these capital projects,” Hodde explained. “And since we do this as part of our operations and our culture, it prepares us better (to use those funds).”
The county has received more than $ 22 million in disaster relief for destructive hurricanes, such as those of 2017 Irma, over the past five years, as well as annual grants from Florida and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to strengthen local emergency programs. But Biden’s budget increase is designed to be a proactive solution to extreme weather conditions, which could help communities protect themselves and cut the more expensive funding needed after storms.
FEMA will distribute the funds through the Program to strengthen infrastructure and resilient communities (BRIC), which is designed to support “States, local communities, tribes and territories as they undertake risk mitigation projects.”
Hodde said Pinellas was too involved in other initiatives to apply to the BRIC during its 2020-2021 pilot year, but the county will apply this year to try to secure funding for 2022-2023. According to FEMA spokeswoman Rosa Norman, a “Fiscal Year Funding Opportunity Notice” will be published in a few weeks, opening up new BRIC applications.
Former FEMA Director Craig Fugate was quoted in a New York Times item Saying that many American communities might find it difficult to spend this increased amount on resilience projects, Hodde disagrees.
“I don’t think a billion dollars is enough, but I think what they are doing is a step in the right direction, ”he said. “It’s not just about the ability of local governments to spend, but the ability of the federal government to distribute it.”
If selected, the Florida Department of Emergency Management will filter money to local governments for use in resilient infrastructure projects. Hodde says if Pinellas is able to secure that funding for 2022, his priorities are to increase shelter capacity, strengthen vulnerable structures and restore Joe’s Creek.
According to Hodde, his staff has already submitted a proposal to restore and create a greenway around the Joe’s Creek area, which could mitigate future flooding and provide space for recreation and habitat restoration. The project is an example of how BRIC funding could be applied to existing resilience initiatives in Pinellas County.
The local official also noted that Penny for Pinellas, a county-wide funding source for capital projects, created a framework for money to flow to such initiatives, making it easier for the county to use federal funding.
Biden’s announcement also said his administration will help start an Earth System Observatory through NASA, in addition to increasing funding from the BRIC. This observatory will use satellites to monitor activities such as sea level and landscape changes in relation to climate change.
Much of what NASA has learned about Earth’s climate has been through satellite observation, so expanding this work will help the country protect itself from worsening climate events, the administrator said. NASA Senator Bill Nelson in a Press release.
The White House partially attributed its new spending and climate initiatives to the hyperactive hurricane season of 2020, where 30 named storms, or storms with winds of 39 mph or more, were seen across the Atlantic.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also predicted an active hurricane season this year, with a “probable” range of 13 to 20 named storms.