Instead of competing for federal funding through an uncertain process, MEMA funded the requests.
Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-MS02) issued a statement on Thursday claiming the state of Mississippi was the only state not to apply to participate in FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities, or BRIC, grant which is intended to help states and localities fortify against natural disasters.
These funds could have been used to mitigate what our state is currently experiencing and what some communities have experienced for years. pic.twitter.com/4FNqL4Tfje
— Bennie G. Thompson (@BennieGThompson) June 10, 2021
Yet, while Thompson’s general statement is true in that the state did not apply for the funds, his comments are not entirely accurate as to the intended funding.
According to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), the way this grant application works is that local governments make application to the state and then the state forwards those to FEMA for consideration.
The reason that was not done in this instance is that only two Mississippi cities – Oxford and Columbus – applied for the funding and MEMA acted on its own to grant the requests.
“We had only two cities apply for BRIC grant money. MEMA allocated expiring Mitigation funds, that we already have and available, to those cities,” MEMA Director of External Affairs Malary White told Y’all Politics. “BRIC is not guaranteed. Billions of dollars of projects were submitted for $500 million in grant funding.”
Thus, in an effort to ensure those two cities who sought the funding received the dollars MEMA acted.
“So our cities are working with guaranteed mitigation funds that the state already has available,” Director White added.
According to MEMA, FEMA’s BRIC and other mitigation grants are extremely hard for certain counties and cities to utilize because there is a 25% cost-share attached to every mitigation project. Many of those counties and cities simply cannot afford that cost-share, therefore mitigation dollars go unused.
As such, MEMA is exploring various ways to help counties and cities that do not have the tax-base to cover the cost-shares required for such federal grant programs.
“Our disaster trust fund gets stretched with the number of disasters we’ve worked,” White said. “We currently have 20 open disasters. Our executive director and team have done amazing outreach for the new BRIC Cycle. We hope to have more cities and counties apply, but the cost-share is always a deterrent.”
As the chairman of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee, Congressman Thompson should understand this well. However, it appears he was quick to express his disappointment with his own state while applauding President Joe Biden, supporting his own political party’s agenda as it relates to climate change.
Y’all Politics contacted Congressman Thompson’s office for comment on this story but no communication has been received at the time of this publication.
As such, it is unclear as to whether Thompson, who is now criticizing the state for not applying, contacted either the Governor’s office, MEMA or municipalities to encourage them to make application for FEMA’s BRIC grant. When members of the federal delegation are aware of federal funding in a certain area, those Senators or Congressmen normally notify the state by way of the Governor’s office, or other agency, and local governments who may qualify, offering their willingness to assist in the process.
MEMA confirmed that FEMA did notify them of the BRIC grant.
What is also unclear is if Thompson is aware that MEMA funded the only two requests it received due to the onerous federal process and highly competitive nature of the grants.
Congressman Thompson posted this on Facebook Friday morning after being asked about his statements and after this story was published.