Public Assistance Grant Program
When natural disasters occur, it is the responsibility of the local government to respond. When efforts are not sufficient to effectively cope with the direct results of the disaster, Federal assistance is available to supplement the local government. The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, Public Law 93–288, as amended, (Stafford Act) was designed to do this. The Stafford Act authorizes the President to provide assistance to individuals (Individual Assistance) and to State and local governments as well as certain Private Non-Profit organizations (Public Assistance) to help them respond to and recover from a disaster. The objective of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Public Assistance Program (PA) Grant Program is to provide assistance to our local government, and certain types of Private Nonprofit organizations so that our community can respond to and recover from major disasters or emergencies declared by the President.
Through the PA Program, FEMA provides supplemental Federal disaster grant assistance for debris removal, emergency protective measures, and the repair, replacement, or restoration of disaster-damaged, publicly owned facilities and the facilities of certain Private Non-Profit (PNP) organizations.
The objective of the Public Assistance Program is to provide supplemental assistance to states, local governments, and selected nonprofit organizations for the alleviation of suffering and hardship resulting from major disasters or emergencies declared by the President.
The Federal government usually provides 75 percent of the funding with the state or other non-federal source providing the remaining 25 percent (referred to as a cost-share-match).
There are two types of Declarations provided for in the Stafford Act: Emergency Declarations and Major Disaster Declarations. Both declaration types authorize the President to provide Federal disaster assistance. However, the cause of the declaration and type and amount of assistance differ.
- An Emergency Declaration can be declared for any occasion or instance when the President determines Federal assistance is needed to supplement State and local efforts and capabilities to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in any part of the United States. The amount of emergency assistance is capped at $5 million per single event unless continued assistance is needed to alleviate a threat to lives, public health, and safety.
- The President can declare a Major Disaster Declaration for any natural event (including any hurricane, tornado, storm, high water, wind-driven water, tidel wave, tsunami, earthquake, volcanic eruption, landslide, mudslide, snowstorm, or drought) or, regardless of cause, any fire, flood, or explosion, that the President believes has caused damage of such severity and magnitude that it is beyond the capabilitiy of the State and disaster relief organizations to respond. A major disaster declaration provides a wide range of Federal assistance programs for individuals and public infrastructure, including funds for both emergency and permanent work.
- Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) — The Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) is a joint assessment used to determine the magnitude and impact of an event’s damage. The FEMA/State team will visit local applicants and view their damage first-hand to assess the scope of damage and estimate repair costs. The State uses the results of the PDA to determine if the situation is beyond the combined capabilities of the State and local resources and to verify the need for supplemental Federal assistance.
- Presidential Disaster Declaration — If it is determined that the damage is beyond the recovery capability, the governor will send a request letter to the President, directed through the Regional Director of the appropriate FEMA region. The President then makes the decision whether or not to declare a major disaster or emergency.
- Applicant Briefing by Grantee — The Applicants briefing if a meeting conducted by the State to inform prospective applicants of available assistance and eligibility requirements for obtaining Federal assistance under the declared event. Applicants will prepare and submit their Requests for Public Assistance form during the briefing.
- Application Process — The Request for Public Assistance is FEMA’s official application form that public and PNP’s use to apply for disaster assistance (Form 90-49). The request must be submitted to the State Public Assistance Officer within 30 days of the date of declaration.
- Kick–Off Meeting with Public Assistance Coordinator (PAC) — A Kickoff meeting is held with each applicant to assess the applicant’s individual needs, discuss disaster related damage, and set forth a plan of action for repair of the applicant’s facilities. The liaison will provide State specific details on documentation and reporting requirements.
- Project Formulation and Cost Estimating — Project formulation is the process of documenting the damage to the facility, identifying the eligible scope of work and estimating the costs associated with that scope of work for each of the applicants projects.
- Project Review and Validation — The purpose of validation is to confirm the eligibility, compliance, accuracy, and reasonableness of small projects formulated by an applicant, and to ensure that the applicant receives the maximum amount of assistance available under the law.
- Obligation of Federal Funds and Disbursement to Sub-grantees — FEMA and the Grantee share responsibility for making Public Assistance Program funds available to the sub-grantees. FEMA is responsible for approving projects and making the Federal share of the approved amount available to the Grantee through a process called obligation. Through obligation FEMA notifies the Grantee that the Federal funds are available but reside in a Federal account until the Grantee is ready to award grants to the appropriate sub-grantees.
- Appeals and Closeout — The appeals process is the opportunity for the applicants to request reconsideration of decisions regarding the provision of assistance. There are two levels of appeal. The first level appeal is to the Regional Director. The second level appeal is to the Assistant Director at FEMA Headquarters. The applicant must file an appeal with the Grantee within 60 days of receipt of a notice of the action that is being appealed. The applicant must provide documentation to support the appeal. This documentation should explain why the applicant believes the original determination is wrong and the amount of adjustment being requested. The purpose of closeout is to certify that all recovery work has been completed, appeals have been resolved and all eligible costs have been reimbursed. Closeout is an important step in the PA process.
The following pages will discuss the PA program in further detail.
- Who is eligible – The Stafford Act and implementing regulations define eligible applicants as:
- State government agencies
- Local governments
- Political subdivisions, such as special districts
- Native American and Eskimo tribes
- Certain Private Nonprofit (PNP) organizations
- What is eligible – In order for damages to be repaired with PA funds:
- The property must be located within the disaster area.
- The damage must be the direct result of the disaster.
- The facility must be the responsibility of the legal applicant.
- The agency/owner must not be eligible to receive compensation from another Federal Agency.
- Eligibility Analysis – There is a four-step eligibility analysis. If any of these criteria are not met, then no funding can be provided:
- Is the applicant eligible? If not, there is no need to go farther in the analysis.
- Is the facility eligible? Was it the responsibility of the applicant? Was it in use before the disaster? Is it eligible for repair under the authority of another Federal Agency?
- Is the work required as a result of the disaster? Is the facility within the designated disaster area? If the facility the legal responsibility of the eligible applicant?
- Is the cost reasonable and necessary to accomplish the work? Does it comply with Federal, state, and local requirements for procurement? Have insurance proceeds and salvage values been deducted?
- Terminology – The PA program defines and uses these terms:
- Large Project – When the estimated cost of repairs and/or replacements exceeds $63, 200.00 (FY 2010), the project is defined as a large project. The funding is based on the actual cost rather than the estimated cost. Threshold values change annually, to confirm the current amount go to www.fema.gov.
- Small Project –If the project cost estimate is less than $63,200.00 (FY 2010), it is a small project. Funding is made available upon approval of the project.
- Improved Project – This is a project on which some non-disaster work is also done. FEMA funding is capped at disaster damage estimate.Improved Projects must be in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
- Alternate Project – If an applicant chooses to abandon a facility rather than make disaster repairs, the applicant may use the PA funds (to the limit of the approved Federal cost estimate) at another facility. There is a 25 percent reduction in the FEMA funds for alternate projects (if unstable soils are present at the site, the reduction is 10 percent).
- Insurance – Proceeds from insurance policies must be deducted from costs repair before FEMA funding. Insurance is required on the repaired facility before funding is approved
- Work Categories – For tracing and management purposes, damages and reimbursable activities are divided into seven categories:
- Category A – Debris Removal Emergency Work
- Category B – Emergency Protective Measures
- Category C – Road Systems
- Category D – Water Control Facilities
- Category E – Public Buildings and Equipment
- Category F – Public Utilities
- Category G – Parks, Recreational, and other
- Time Limits:
- Debris Clearance (Category A) - 6 months
- Emergency Protective Measures (Category B) - 6 months
- Permanent Work (Category C-G) - 18 months
All time frames for completing eligible work are also measured from the date of declaration of the disaster and vary depending on the type of work. All time frames are set by regulation; however, if extenuating circumstances or unusual project conditions exist, a time extension may be requested through the Grantee. If not changing the scope of work or cost, the State has the authority to extend the time frames for completion of debris removal and emergency work by 6 months and permanent work by 30 months. For all other extensions, the State must request the extension from FEMA on behalf of the applicants. The Regional Administrator may extend the time limitation beyond the State authority.
- States Role – FEMA and the State work as partners to deliver the Public Assistance program. The State role is as follows:
- Working with FEMA to manage the program.
- Providing technical support and assistance to applicants.
- Ensuring that potential applicants are educated about the PA Program and are aware that the assistance is available.
- Supporting project identification, to include project formulation and small project validation.
- Submitting documents necessary for award of grant assistance.
- Providing grant funds to applicants.
- Administering and monitoring the grants.
- Submitting large project accounting and small project completion certification to FEMA.
Stafford Act, P.L. 93--288
44 CFR Part 206, Subparts C and G-L
44 CFR Part 13, Subparts A-D
Public Assistance Guide Book FEMA 322
FEMA Policy Digest Book FEMA P-321
Additional information about the Public Assistance Program is available through the Internet at www.fema.gov/r-n-r/pa/ or contact:
For more information, contact Public Assistance Officer
David Cruz at (671) 475-9600 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org