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Increased Hazard Mitigation Funds Available to Alaska Communities

A landscape of a rural Alaska village: a grassy field with small houses and a shoreline
Wales, one of Alaska's westernmost communities and one of the many villages that KNOM serves, seen in September 2017. Photo: Gabe Colombo, KNOM.

Communities across Alaska now have an extra opportunity to protect themselves against man-made or natural disasters.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) increased disaster funding going to Alaska by about $9 million following the 2018 earthquake in Anchorage. Those funds can be used for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. According to FEMA, they can be used for projects like soil stabilization, berm construction, or even to lift a community building that could be prone to flooding. 

However, there are certain requirements communities must meet to be eligible for those funds. Charlene Saclamana is the Emergency Preparedness Specialist at Kawerak. She explains that if a community wants the funding, they have to have a Hazard Mitigation Plan.

“A plan that looks at all of their natural and potential man-made disasters that could happen. It’s a very detail-oriented document, and it takes about half a year for one of our villages to develop these.”

Out of the communities Kawerak serves, ten villages currently have Hazard Mitigation Plans. Saclamana explains that the process to create a plan is free: the community just has to apply along with the intention to participate in the process that involves working with staff from the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. 

To receive funding for a project through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, Saclamana says the interested community needs to apply with a “shovel-ready” project. 

“Everything would have to be planned out and prepared for a project to begin once they received the funding. That means they should have had assessments done.”

Normally, each year, there is only one deadline to apply for those funds — January 31 — but in 2019, there is a second round of funding available under this program, with a deadline of October 31, due to the timing of earthquake disaster funding.

Saclamana encourages any Bering Strait community who is interested in applying for those funds, or in developing a Hazard Mitigation Plan, to contact her at Kawerak.

Image at top: Wales, Alaska, September 2017. Photo: Gabe Colombo, KNOM file.

Corrections: this article originally misstated the nature of this year’s deadline of October 31 for additional disaster relief funding. We also misstated the title of the government agency Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Our thanks to Charlene Saclamana for guidance in making these revisions. Finally, the title of the grant program being described has been corrected to “Hazard Mitigation Grant Program” (rather than “Hazard Grant Mitigation”).

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We acknowledge that KNOM Radio Mission is located on the customary lands of Indigenous peoples. 

Based in the Bering Strait region, KNOM broadcasts throughout the homelands of the Iñupiaq, Siberian Yup’ik, Cup’ik and Yup’ik peoples.