Economic Development:

Status of FEMA's FY03 Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program

GAO-04-727R: Published: Apr 28, 2004. Publicly Released: Jun 2, 2004.

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William O. Jenkins, Jr
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The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides federal disaster assistance to help those in need respond to, prepare for, and recover from disasters. As the costs for disaster assistance have risen, FEMA has made disaster mitigation a primary goal in its efforts to reduce the long-term cost of disasters and minimize risk to property and individuals from natural or man-made hazards. Previous FEMA mitigation grant programs were formula-based and provided funds both prior to and after a disaster occurred. Fiscal Year 2003, marks the first-time FEMA has implemented a grant program that awards funds for mitigation activities on a competitive basis. This report presents information on (1) FEMA's processes and criteria for awarding planning and competitive pre-disaster mitigation grants to states and localities, and (2) the status of FEMA's efforts to implement the Fiscal Year 2003 Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program.

We found, with regard to processes and criteria for awarding planning and competitive grant awards, that in 2003, Congress appropriated $150 million to initiate the implementation of a competitive pre-disaster mitigation grant program. This is the first-time FEMA has implemented a competitive mitigation grant program. The Fiscal Year 2003 Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program included approximately $13.7 million for noncompetitive planning grants and approximately $131.5 million for competitive pre-disaster grants for mitigation activities and technical assistance. Each of the 55 states and territories were eligible to receive approximately $250,000 in noncompetitive grants. FEMA awarded the competitive grants based on a ranking and evaluation process. FEMA assessed the applications for the competitive mitigation grants for eligibility and technical feasibility. FEMA then ranked and evaluated the applications using both quantitative and qualitative factors for selection of competitive award grants. We also found, with regard to implementation of the Fiscal Year 2003 Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program, that FEMA had obligated all of the $13.7 million in noncompetitive planning grants to 54 states and territories that applied. FEMA received 459 competitive grant applications. Approximately 40 percent of the competitive grant applications submitted by the states, tribes, and territories did not meet eligibility and technical feasibility requirements. FEMA attributes this to the short application period. FEMA identified 200 applications to award competitive grants. These applications have a value of $98.7 million and cover 37 states, 2 territories, and 6 tribes. FEMA expected to begin awarding the competitive grants mid-March 2004. FEMA plans to use lessons learned from the implementation of the Fiscal Year 2003 Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program to improve the program in the future. These lessons include (1) implementing a longer application period, (2) sequentially reviewing grant applications to reduce inefficient use of resources, and (3) making the e-Grant application form standard with paper applications to reduce processing time.

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