WASHINGTON — Last month, FEMA announced the designation of 483 community census tracts as Community Disaster Resilience Zones (CDRZ), as directed by Congress in the Community Disaster Resilience Zones Act of 2022. Natural disasters and the most severe effects of climate change disproportionately impact communities that are least able to prepare for, and recover from, those harms. To counter this, the Act directed FEMA to take a data-based approach to designate and assist communities that are most at-risk and in-need with respect to natural disasters and climate impacts. 

Communities designated as CDRZ can receive increased financial and technical assistance to plan and implement resilience projects. For example, CDRZ are eligible for Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) grant funds at an increased federal cost share of up to 90% (relative to the baseline of up to 75%). Designated communities are prioritized to receive BRIC Direct Technical Assistance as well as Benefit-Cost Analysis (BCA) assistance to support their BRIC project proposals. Designated communities do not have to submit a cost-effectiveness narrative for BRIC project proposals that have a total cost of $1 million or more and qualify for BCA assistance. Finally, each state and the District of Columbia are eligible for a $2 million BRIC allocation for eligible activities such as project scoping, updates or creating hazard mitigation plans, or adopting and enforcing building codes. In this grant cycle, FEMA is designating nearly 20% of the total BRIC allocation, including $400,000 per state, to be applied to applications submitted from designated zones. 

FEMA is hosting two informational webinars, on October 25 and October 31, for the public to learn more about the vision for the Community Disaster Resilience Zones, the designation methodology and future opportunities for partnership and investment. 

To make its initial designations, FEMA coupled data from its National Risk Index with the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool developed by the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Communities within 2020 census tracts were designated as CDRZ if (1) their composite National Risk Index – Risk Index Scores ranked in the top 50 nationally or in the top 1% within their state, and (2) they were identified as disadvantaged by the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool. The initial set of designations will endure for five years, and additional designations for Tribal and territorial designations will be announced later this year.

The CDRZ designations also provide a common framework for federal agencies to work with external stakeholders to collectively build resilience in our nation’s most at-risk communities. See what leaders representing key stakeholder groups are saying about the importance of the CDRZ designations:

R Street Institute: Jerry Theodorou, Director, Finance, Insurance & Trade Program. “October 6, 2023, marked one month since FEMA announced 483 census tracts initially eligible to receive the CDRZ designation. This enables the communities to receive increased federal support for resilience to natural hazards and extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change. The R Street Institute supports and recognizes the importance of CDRZ designations as valuable tools for communities most at-risk to enhance their resilience in the face of worsening natural hazards.”