On Monday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced new funding for flood victims in four states that were hit hard by Hurricane Ida last August when Hurricane Ida hit the Gulf Coast and moved inland through the northeast. Starting April 1, the agency will open $60 million in flood assistance grants to Louisiana, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, with $40 million earmarked for Louisiana — the state is home to 20 Six of the most at-risk counties are home to flooding in the country. New Jersey will receive $10 million, and Mississippi and Pennsylvania will each receive $5 million.

“Many communities in our country have been devastated by storms and flooding in recent years,” Vice President Kamala Harris said Monday in announcing the new funding during a news conference in Sunset, Louisiana. The government is committed to helping all communities prepare for, respond to and recover from extreme weather.”

The $60 million fund, called the Swift Current program, will be administered through FEMA’s Flood Assistance Program and follows the $3.5 billion in flood assistance grants allocated by the bipartisan Infrastructure Act signed into law by President Joe Biden last fall. part. This is the first FEMA project to receive funding from the Act.

The president initially wanted Congress to approve another, larger bill with more money for emissions reductions and climate adaptation efforts. But the Build Back Better Act and its $555 billion in climate spending are currently stalled in the Senate. As a result, the Biden administration is using the few tools available to deliver on its commitment to advancing environmental justice and climate action at the federal level.

FEMA’s new funding for flood-prone homes is proof of that. Individuals in four states selected by FEMA who own homes and properties insured by the National Flood Insurance Program and have been severely damaged or repeatedly flooded by Hurricane Ida will be eligible for the money. FEMA will prioritize homes valued at less than $750,000 so that funds can be spread across many properties. Grant funds will be allocated by local governments and can be used in one of five flood protection categories, including raising buildings off the ground, retrofitting them and making them more resilient to water.

Funds can also be used for Category VI: “Property Acquisition and Structural Demolition/Relocation”. In a non-agency statement, that means the federal government will either pay homeowners for the land and demolish the house built on it, or pay to relocate the home. As the storms get more intense and sea levels rise, parts of the U.S. coastline will be so flooded that it’s impossible to live there. This means that people will have to move or retreat from these areas.

The Swift Current initiative both acknowledges that retreats are a reality for some and proves that the federal government is not ready to encourage or mandate retreats from flood-prone areas. It’s up to towns to decide what projects they want to submit for grants, so there’s no saying how many individual homes will end up being bought out as a result of the program. “A lot depends on which communities get the money,” Anna Weber, a policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Grist. “If the local government is really interested in a buyout, and a lot of residents think it’s the right thing to do , then you’ll see that happen.”

FEMA tells us that Swift Current’s management will complement the Biden administration’s efforts to channel 40% of the proceeds from its climate and environmental programs to disadvantaged communities, and FEMA tells us to undertake 90% of the cost of rebuilding “severely damaged” homes. Cost share in “socially disadvantaged” communities. A severely damaged home is one where the cost of restoring the building to its pre-disaster condition would equal or exceed 50% of the home’s market value. The agency typically covers 75 percent of the cost of severely damaged homes, but the remaining 25 percent is still too expensive for many homeowners. For properties that have been flooded more than twice, FEMA said it would cover between 90% and 100% of the cost of rebuilding, depending on the severity of the flooding.

“The Swift Current initiative represents FEMA’s commitment to quickly and equitably providing disaster mitigation funding to communities most in need,” FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said in a statement.

While this is a good start, $60 million in funding is insufficient to address the scale of the flood crisis in the United States, where extreme flooding caused by climate change is already costing the country an estimated $32 billion a year. A recent study suggests that this financial burden could increase by 26 percent to $41 billion a year by 2050, with most of the risk falling on predominantly Black communities. “Even when it comes to addressing the most flood-prone problems in the nation, $60 million is nowhere near enough to make a difference,” Webb said. “But in the bigger picture, this is a situation where FEMA is trying new things, so It makes sense for them to focus only on a limited pool of funding.” FEMA said that depending on how Swift Current progresses, it could provide similar funding for more states. The agency provides additional funding for flood mitigation in states each year through other funding streams.

In some places, however, no amount of federal funding will stop flooding from rising seas. Eventually, people in these areas will have to leave their homes. This is a problem that FEMA cannot solve alone. Webb said a managed retreat, the coordinated movement of people, assets and infrastructure from further inland coastlines, would require stronger leadership and a comprehensive, whole-of-government approach. “Administrative retreats are not the jurisdiction of any single federal agency or individual,” she added. “I think if we want something that really addresses the needs of the community, we’re going to need a lot more coordination and collaboration.”