Have you looked for building permit system funding in this pandemic? Have you heard of FEMA’s BRIC program? Or the Federal CARES Act program? If not, both of these funding programs are worth looking into during this pandemic. Municipalities across the country will soon be using these programs to offset the cost of purchasing a building permit system.
Cities and counties need a building permit and electronic plan check system now more than ever. With changes in permitting workflows due to COVID-19, it has become much more time consuming to issue permits. Whether via email, over the phone or with plexiglass covering your department’s front counter, permitting is just taking longer. But if you have ever considered upgrading from paper permits to computer based permitting, you know that there are plenty of challenges to making this happen.
One of the main hurdles that discourages most municipalities from exploring an upgrade is the question, “How are we going to pay for it?”. Even before the pandemic, this question was one of the main reasons that permitting system upgrades never moved forward. And now with government having to readjust their budgets due to tax revenue shortfalls, the issue has become an even bigger hurdle.
BRIC and CARES
As mentioned earlier, two building permit system funding opportunities for a new or upgraded permit system are the:
- FEMA Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program.
- Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES).
The FEMA BRIC program is the result of the Disaster Recovery and Reform Act of 2018. This Act amended another disaster relief act from 1998 called the Stafford Act. The BRIC program was created to help communities improve the various process to construct more resilient structures. At the heart of this is improving standards, construction methods, enforcement, training and workflows across the entire construction development process. One of the eligible activities that qualifies for funding is to “Develop or acquire software and hardware, and associated training, to assist with plan reviews, permitting, inspections, and records retention.” Application submittal for BRIC funding starts on September 30, 2020 and closes on January 29, 2021. Download this program document which explains the program and what activities qualify for funding. And stay tuned to FEMA’s BRIC web page for upcoming webinars.
The Federal CARES Act also provides reimbursement funds to Counties and Cities for COVID-19 related expenses. Since a system like our Permits solution is now necessary to conduct permitting, municipalities have been able to justify the use of CARES money for this type of purchase. Each state has a different mechanism for how the CARES Act money is being distributed down to the local level. The International Code Council recently hosted a webinar explaining this along with some Building Department success stories. You will want to contact your city management for more information or we found a lot of information by simply Googling “CARES Act cities [Name of your state]”.