Nonprofit hospitals and health clinics, as well as schools, municipalities, and tribal governments across the country can avail themselves of significant amounts of funding being provided by FEMA to mitigate potential harm caused by wildfires, flooding, drought, earthquakes, mudslides, hurricanes, cyclones, severe winter storms, as well as anticipated power outages caused by these calamities. FEMA also provides funding to protect against foreign and domestic terrorists, including active shooters.

Due to an increase in the frequency and ferocity of natural disasters, as well as incidents involving gun violence, preventive funding to alleviate mass casualty incidents has become increasingly important for organizations required to provide essential services such as hospitals, non-volunteer fire departments, plus local, state and tribal governments. The unprecedented rise of mass shootings has also required greater focus on the protection of schools and faith-based organizations, including synagogues, mosques and churches. Funding provided by federal and state governments to address the needs of these entities is available in the form of grants, as described below.

Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) Seeks to Mitigate Harm from Natural Disasters

While the FEMA HMGP grant application process for funding to protect against harm caused by natural events can seem at first a bit intimidating, that should not deter interested parties from applying for this funding, which can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars to strengthen critical infrastructure. The program generally provides resources pursuant to a Presidential Disaster Declaration in response to a natural occurrence. HMGP funding can be awarded for a wide range of mitigation purposes, including flood prevention, the reduction of hazardous fuels that feed wildfires, the construction of “safe rooms” to protect communities from hurricanes and tornadoes, slope stabilization to prevent dangerous mudslides, the upgrading of electrical generators in critical facilities (hospitals, fire stations, and water/sewer treatment facilities), and retrofitting to make buildings more resistant to floods, earthquakes, and other natural hazards.

To apply for FEMA funding in most states, grant applications may be submitted by either a nonprofit organization or a municipal government on behalf of the nonprofit. The applicant normally first submits a “Notice of Interest” to a State Administrative Office (SAA).  Some states allow the submission of the NOI anytime throughout the year. If, based on the NOI, the SAA deems the applicant “eligible” to submit a full application to FEMA, the SAA will notify the applicant. A larger application is then due by a time specified by the SAA. Whenever an application is submitted, the state will often place the project in a queue and submit it to FEMA when the state deems the proposed project a priority, meaning either upon receipt or in the future. Depending on the state and the amount of FEMA funding available, HMGP projects are often not capped at any particular amount, as long as the applicant can contribute its requisite 25% share of the total project cost in cash, in-kind services or materials.

Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP)

In the wake of September 11, 2001, FEMA implemented a grant program to assist urban, nonprofit organizations, including medical facilities, schools, and faith-based organizations (synagogues, mosques and churches) address the threat of domestic and/or foreign terrorist attacks. The agency originally awarded $75,000 grants so eligible facilities could purchase target hardening and surveillance equipment (e.g., new fencing/gates/barriers, cameras and/or better lighting) and access monitoring enhancements (card readers, door sensors, and visitor management systems).

In the last few years, as threats have evolved, FEMA has increased the amount it awards to one entity under this program each year to $150,000 per site (up to three sites), and it has expanded the purposes for which these funds may be utilized. Currently, funds may also be used for planning (i.e., evacuation or sheltering in place plans) and providing employees with active shooter, cybersecurity, and/or emergency first aid training. Funds can also be used to conduct security-related exercises, so staff can react more quickly before and after an attack. Further, FEMA has expanded eligibility to include not just facilities in high-risk urban areas, but also those outside of those  areas. Some states including California have adopted their own Nonprofit Grant Program, with funding provided in awards of up to $200,000 per site (up to three sites) for a total of $600,000.

Success in pursuing these opportunities is based on a thorough awareness of what must be contained in each application, along with an understanding of the statutory and regulatory legal provisions that govern the implementation of the grant once awarded, as well as the compliance, procurement, and reporting requirements that accompany government funding. Because these requirements can be complicated, it is helpful to work with an advisor who has the relevant government experience, legal training, and  direct responsibility for preparing successful applications for government funding to assist in the pursuit and implementation of these grants. To illustrate, Powers attorneys have worked with nonprofit clients for many years to acquire and implement projects funded by exactly these federal and state grant programs. A sampling of funding obtained for our clients during this period is listed below.

  • $1,000,000 in FEMA HMGP nonstructural seismic retrofitting funding to enable an historic nonprofit hospital in Los Angeles stabilize critical utilities and medical equipment on two floors of its main hospital building to protect patients and staff in the event of a powerful earthquake;
  • $406,867 in similar FEMA funding to assist another urban hospital protect essential services in the event of an earthquake by bracing and anchoring its new kitchen, which state authorities required be moved to ensure its compliance with seismic requirements;
  • $1,673,517 in FEMA seismic funding to retrofit electronic and elevator control rooms on each of nine floors of a critical medical facility, along with the electrical, water, and HVAC utilities contained in its adjacent, two-story Power Plant;
  • $75,000 in FEMA NSGP funding to purchase new doors and cameras for a hospital emergency room linked to a walkway, which led to a main hospital building, in order to prevent unauthorized intruders from entering restricted patient care areas; and
  • $200,000 in California State NSGP (CSNSGP) funding to purchase door locking devices, access cards, and access card readers to stop unauthorized entry into and out of a locked mental health facility that treats individuals deemed a threat to themselves or others.

Should you wish to learn more about how to prepare and submit an application to FEMA and/or your state for funds to mitigate any of the types of hazards referenced above, please do not hesitate to contact Kathleen Hatfield of the Powers firm at 202-420-8932 or Kathleen.Hatfield@PowersLaw.com.  

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