FEMA Updates Public Assistance Policy
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which distributes billions of dollars in aid each year for communities to rebuild after disasters, recently released an update to its Recovery Interim Policy that added codes and regulations that must be abided by if an entity is seeking aid.
Among the changes, the “Consensus-Based Codes, Specifications and Standards for Public Assistance” adds several international codes developed by the International Code Council to reportedly combat criticism that communities that spend the federal aid are building to pre-disaster standards just to have the structures damaged again.
"All of this rebuilding now is going to have to start to be rebuilt to these stronger standards," said Gabe Maser, Vice President of Federal Relations for the ICC.
The policy applies only to REMA grants spent on rebuilding public facilities and does not impact payments to individuals and families in disaster zones, according to reports.
The Public Assistance Grant Program is FEMA’s largest grant program, averaging $4.7 billion in assistance each year state and local governments, as well as certain nonprofit organizations.
The policy also requires adherence to the current editions of the International Building Code, Internatioal Residential Code and International Existing Building Code.
"When you have a disaster and want to rebuild, it doesn't make sense to rebuild to the standards we had before,” said Thomas Smith, Executive Director of the American Society of Civil Engineers. “We're in a vastly different environment now. We have to be thinking about resilient, sustainable infrastructure.”
Previously, the agency requires damaged facilities to be rebuilt following local codes, however, only three states have adopted the newest version of the IBC, according to E&E News.
"This [new policy] gives communities a way to build to a higher code without having to go through the process of adopting new codes," said Craig Fugate, former FEMA administrator.