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Applicant Handbook

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General Applicant Information

The objective of the Public Assistance Program is to provide assistance to States, local governments, and selected Non-Profit organizations to alleviate suffering and hardship resulting from major disasters or emergencies declared by the President.

Why an Applicant Handbook?

The Applicant Handbook was developed to provide easy to follow instructions on how to apply for Public Assistance grants.  Numerous applicants, State emergency managers, and Federal Public Assistance staff requested the development of a handbook to help walk applicants through the procedures and forms necessary to determine eligibility and receive money for damages sustained as a result of a Presidentially declared disaster.  The intent of this handbook is to do just that.

You, the applicant, play an active role throughout the disaster recovery process.  It is our belief that you are in the best position to identify and prioritize local needs and that we, in concert with our State partners, can better serve you by providing technical and financial assistance to meet those needs.

To participate fully, you must be able to develop accurate and complete scopes of work and cost estimates.  This handbook is a tool to help you accomplish these tasks.  It will also help you understand what technical assistance is available and how to obtain it.

You are responsible for maintaining your project records according to the program requirements.  Our procedures require that only minimal documentation be collected and retained by FEMA.  Guidelines for organizing and maintaining documentation are provided in this handbook.

Recovering from disaster can be a long and arduous road for any community.  It is our hope that this guide will help make the path a little easier and the recovery effort a little faster.

How does FEMA get involved in a State disaster?

Once a disaster has occurred, and the State has declared a state of emergency, the State will evaluate the recovery capabilities of the State and local governments.  If it is determined that the damage is beyond their recovery capability, the governor will normally 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.

After a presidential declaration has been made, FEMA will designate the area eligible for assistance and announce the types of assistance available.  FEMA provides supplemental assistance for State and local government recovery expenses, and the Federal share will always be at least 75 percent of the eligible costs.

What is a PDA?

A Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) is the process used to determine the magnitude and impact of the State’s damage.  A FEMA/State team will usually visit local applicants and view their damage first hand to assess the scope of damage and estimate repair costs.  The results of this survey are used to help determine the need for Federal involvement in the recovery process.

What do I need to do?

  • Besides showing the team your damage sites, be sure to bring to their attention any environmental or historic issues that may be present, along with any known insurance coverage.

  • You should also explain what immediate expenditures might be associated with any emergency work you have identified. This information may be used to provide you some expedited funding, if a declaration is obtained for your area.

Is there a way to get money fast?

Immediate Needs Funding (INF) is money earmarked for the most urgent work in the initial aftermath of a disaster.  The funds may be provided to any eligible applicant for eligible emergency work that must be performed immediately and paid for within the first 60 days following declaration.  Eligible work typically includes debris removal, emergency protective measures, and removal of health and safety hazards.  Immediate needs funds can be used for expenses resulting from this eligible work, such as temporary labor costs, overtime payroll, equipment, and material fees.

How does it work?

During the PDA, immediate needs are noted for each area surveyed.  If a disaster is declared, and the State thinks damage costs warrant the need for immediate cash flow, the State may INF on your behalf. Up to 50% of the Federal share estimate of emergency monies will then be placed in the State’s account.  Because this money can be made available in advance of normal procedures once a disaster has been declared, paperwork and processing times are reduced and you can receive emergency funds sooner.  Even though your facilities may have been included in the PDA, INF will not be available unless your county/city has been included in the presidential declaration.

What do I need to do?

  • If your damage sites have been surveyed in the PDA, you may be eligible for INF.  If you are, the choice of whether or not to apply for these funds is yours.

  • INF is usually based on a percentage of the emergency work identified during the PDA.  You can assist the PDA team by alerting them to your emergency work, along with any associated immediate expenditures and helping to estimate damage costs.

  • Your State will notify you on how to apply INF.  Typically they will have you send a letter of request to a designated State official.

  • You must submit a completed Request for Public Assistance (Request) (FEMA Form 90-49) before the State will release any INF.

  • You may use INF for any eligible emergency work that requires payment within the first 60 days following declaration.

  • No INF will be allocated for work projects identified during the PDA that include environmental or historic considerations, or for hazard mitigation projects.  Specialists conducting the PDA will use a list of Special Considerations questions to help determine INF eligibility.

  • Any INF you receive will be offset against the costs of your actual emergency work projects as they are received.

  • If your actual emergency work project costs are less than the INF received, then INF will be offset against permanent work projects.  Eligible permanent work costs will not be obligated until INF is reimbursed.

  • If your damages are not identified during the PDA or if no immediate needs are noted, you still will have the opportunity to request expedited handling of your emergency work when you officially file your Request. 

How do I apply for a Public Assistance Grant?

The Request is FEMA’s official application form.  It is a simple, short form with self-contained instructions.  The Request (FEMA form 90-49) asks for general information which identifies you as an applicant, starts the grant process and opens your Case Management File, which contains your general claim information as well as records of meetings, conversations, phone messages and any special issues or concerns that may affect your funding.

How does it work?

You have 30 days from the date of the presidential disaster declaration or the designation of your area in which to submit the Request form to your State Public Assistance Officer.  The form may be delivered in person at the Applicants’ Briefing or by mail, or fax (and eventually, via the Internet).  The sooner your Request is submitted, the sooner the system will begin to work for you.

What do I need to do?

  • Review the Request (FEMA form 90-49) on page 6 so you are familiar with the information needed.

  • Fill out the form completely providing accurate phone numbers and contact information.

  • Submit the form to your State representative at the Applicants’ Briefing. You may also FAX or mail it in. 

  • The Request form establishes you as an applicant and initiates the grant process on your behalf.  Even if you only request INF, you must submit a Request form before the actual funds are released by the State.

  • Do not delay in submitting the Request form because you do not have a complete assessment of your damages.  As soon as FEMA receives your Request, you can receive assistance in assessing damages and help in completing additional paperwork.

Is there a deadline?

Yes, the Request must be submitted to the State Public Assistance Officer within 30 days of the date of designation of your area.

What is the Applicants’ Briefing?

The Applicants’ Briefing is a meeting conducted by the State to inform prospective applicants of available assistance and eligibility requirements for obtaining Federal assistance under the declared event.  These meetings are conducted a few days after the declaration. The Request forms usually are distributed and collected at this time.

What do I need to do?

  • Although great benefit may be obtained from these briefings if an elected official or a financial management representative attends, maximum benefit is ensured if someone who will actually be using the information also attends the meeting.

  • Complete and submit the Request form at the meeting to avoid delay in getting the process started.  Once the Request form is turned in, you will be assigned a Public Assistance Coordinator who will serve as your customer service representative.

  • If you have an INF request, be sure and bring it to the attention of the State representative conducting the briefing.

Who is a PAC?

The Public Assistance Coordinator (PAC) is a customer service representative assigned to work with you from declaration to funding approval. The PAC is trained in Public Assistance policies and procedures and will guide you through the steps necessary to receive funding. This individual will maintain and manage a Case Management File containing information on your projects, conversations regarding the damages to your facilities and issues affecting your FEMA assistance.

What does the PAC do?

Working in partnership with you, a PAC is assigned to manage your case from beginning to end, providing comprehensive information, explanation, and technical assistance.  As needed, your PAC can help you to document your damage, determine eligible repair work, estimate costs, develop work projects, and identify issues such as insurance coverage, environmental resources, and historic buildings, which require special attention.  The earlier these Special Considerations are identified, the sooner they can be resolved and public assistance funding made available to you.

It is the PAC’s responsibility to ensure that all damage is reported correctly and accurately, that Special Considerations are identified and evaluated, and that projects are approved and obligated in a timely manner. The PAC, as manager of the Case Management File, is also responsible for recording all meetings and conversations, tracking the progress of projects and issues, and documenting any concerns that may affect your funding.

How will I be dealing with my PAC?

  • You should expect to meet with your PAC in person and talk with him or her by phone as often as you need. 

  • You can expect to be contacted by your PAC within one (1) week from the time you submit your Request form.  If you have not heard from your PAC by the end of two (2) weeks, please notify your State Public Assistance Officer.

  • The first meeting with your PAC is called the Kickoff Meeting, where comprehensive information and assistance tailored to your damage claims will be reviewed.

  • If at all possible, attend the Applicants’ Briefing for your area, obtain a Disaster Fact Sheet, create a list of all your damages and review this handbook before meeting with your PAC.

Who is a Liaison?

The Applicant Liaison (Liaison) is the State’s customer service representative assigned to work with you and the PAC.  The Liaison is responsible for providing you with specific information on State regulations, documentation and reporting requirements.  The Liaison is also there to provide technical assistance, when requested, and can help in the identification of Hazard Mitigation opportunities.

How will I be dealing with my Liaison?

  • The first meeting with your Liaison will be at the Kickoff Meeting.  The Liaison will provide the State’s perspective on the recovery process and will explain any State specific reporting requirements.

  • As a State representative, the Liaison should be familiar with your area and any special conditions that might be present in your area.  Do not hesitate to seek the advice and counsel of the Liaison about area specific questions.

  • You should expect to meet with your Liaison in person and talk with him or her by phone as often as you need.

What is a Kickoff Meeting?

The first meeting with your PAC and Liaison is called the Kickoff Meeting.  It is at this meeting that your damages will be discussed, your needs assessed, and a plan of action put in place.  The PAC will go over what will be expected of you, and will provide detailed instructions on what to do and how to do it.  The Liaison will provide State specific details on documentation and reporting requirements.  Both the PAC and Liaison will help identify any Special Considerations in your area.

The PAC will contact you to set up this meeting.  After reviewing your list of damages, the PAC will help you determine what technical assistance, if any, is needed to prepare your Project Worksheets  (FEMA Form 90-91).  This meeting is also the place to bring any questions or concerns you may have about how the Public Assistance process works or what might be expected of you.

Who should attend?

  • When your PAC contacts you to schedule a Kickoff Meeting, make sure to discuss who else should attend.

  • It may be helpful to have your risk manager who is familiar with you insurance coverage, record keeper, public works officials, and/or others with working knowledge of the repairs needed, in attendance.

What do I need to do?

  • You can expect to be contacted by your PAC within one (1) week after submission of your Request.  If you have not heard from your PAC within two (2) weeks, contact your State Public Assistance Officer to arrange the first meeting.

  • Compile a list of all your damages. Take that list with you to the Kickoff Meeting.

  • Pay close attention when your PAC shows you how to prepare detailed descriptions and summaries of your repair projects.  By the end of the Kickoff Meeting, you should have received the information you need to proceed with disaster recovery and will understand what to expect.

  • Identify circumstances that require special review, such as insurance coverage, environmental resource issues, and historic preservation.  The earlier these conditions are known, the faster they can be addressed, and they must be addressed before funding can be approved.

  • You are encouraged to participate fully in managing your repair projects, particularly small projects.

  • Request clarification of anything you do not understand and bring forward any issues that may concern you.  Full discussion and regular interaction with your PAC and Liaison will help to resolve differences as they arise and expedite approval of your projects.

  • Contact your PAC whenever you have questions or need assistance.

  • You are responsible for maintaining records of completed work and work to be completed.  Your PAC will provide a detailed list of required records and can recommend ways of organizing them.

Project Formulation

What is Project Formulation?

The next step in disaster recovery is to fully document the extent of your damages and to plan the repair work.  Project formulation is the process of documenting the eligible facility, the eligible work and the eligible cost for fixing the identified damages. You, the applicant, are responsible for identifying all damages and determining how you will develop your work projects.

Project formulation allows you to administratively consolidate multiple work items into single projects in order to expedite approval and funding, and to facilitate project management.      A project is a logical method of performing work required as a result of the declared event. You may include more than one damage site in a project. This offers flexibility in organizing and managing the work around your needs.  Your PAC will explain advantages and disadvantages, as well as different ways of formulating projects so that you can decide what works best for you.

What is the difference between a large and small project?

To facilitate review, approval and funding, repair projects are divided by dollar amount into small and large projects.  In most disasters, the majority of work consists of small projects. A small project is any eligible work, either emergency or permanent, costing from $1,000 to $47,800 ($47,800 is the threshold for small projects for Federal fiscal year 1999 and is adjusted annually.)  Funding for small projects is based on the Federal share—usually 75%—of the approved estimate of eligible work.

You are responsible for identifying all projects and are encouraged to provide your own scopes of work and cost estimates for small projects. Details on this process are given later in this book.  Your PAC will explain the entire process during the Kickoff Meeting and will be available at any time to provide further assistance.

Although you are responsible for identifying large projects, only the basic description of the project and a broad cost estimate is required.  Large projects, those with damage costs over $47,800 (Federal FY 99) will be formulated as a team effort with FEMA, State and your local representative as partners.  Funding for large projects is based on actual costs to complete the eligible scope of work.  The funding for each large project will be adjusted after all work is complete.

What do I need to do?

  • Combine your various recovery efforts into projects.  A project should be formulated to meet your recovery needs.

  • Multiple damaged sites and eligible work may be combined administratively into a single project for a variety of justifiable reasons.  You may select any reasonable method to manage your projects. 

  • After the Specialist has reviewed the Special Considerations Questions with you, it may be necessary for FEMA to conduct an Environmental Assessment.  If this occurs, you will need to keep a record of the information pertaining to the alternatives that were considered.

What are some examples of project formulation?

  • Specific Site – all work at a specific site may be a project, such as a single road washout site.  This method is used often if the site has Special Considerations.

  • Specific Facility – all work on a bridge may be a project, or restoration of a building and its contents may be a project.  This method is used for large projects.

  • Type of Damage – all work under a specific category may be a project such as debris removal (Category A) or all work at certain types of facilities may be a project, such as all gravel roads on one project and all paved roads on another.

  • System – all work to a system may be a single project, for example, repairs to the water distribution system including multiple waterline breaks may be one project.

  • Jurisdiction – all work within a specific area such as a park, may be a project.  Or, all work within an administrative department of an applicant, such as the city police, fire, and public works departments, may be a project.

  • Method of Work – a project may be grouped by how the work will be completed.  For example, all work completed under a single contract may be a project.  Or, all work undertaken by a force account crew may be a project.

  • Complex – for extensive damage to several facilities at a complex (for example, a high school) all damage could be combined into one project, or separated into several projects, such as roof repair, or work done by a single contractor, or all repairs done by force account.

  • Special Considerations – a project may be grouped by special issues that might take longer to resolve, such as environmental or historic concerns.

May more than one category be combined in a single project?

Yes.  More than one category of work may be combined in a single project if the combination is practical.  For example, if the project is to repair a park (Category G) it may include work to repair roads within the park (Category C). However, for the most part, emergency work (Categories A & B) should not be combined with permanent work (Categories C through G) unless the emergency work is incidental to the permanent repair. It should be noted that even though categories may be combined, FEMA eligibility criteria will still be applied as is appropriate to the type of work/costs performed.

For example, some debris removal (emergency work) may be required prior to repairing undermining of a bridge abutment (permanent work).  Since the debris removal is incidental to completing the bridge repair, the work may be formulated on a single project. Categories are explained in detail under Appendix A of this handbook and also in the Public Assistance Guide, (FEMA 286, to be replaced by FEMA 322).

You will need to complete a Project Worksheet for each of your small projects.  When you have completed worksheets for all or a logical subset of your small projects, submit them to your PAC.  The PAC can begin the processing of your claims as soon as you submit the Project Worksheets.

If you need money quickly because you have extensive emergency repairs or because you did not receive Immediate Needs Funding, you have the option of submitting emergency work as soon as you can formulate those projects.  You can then turn to preparing documentation for permanent repair work.  The choice is yours, based on your funding or other needs.

Note:  If sites are combined in such a way that the cost estimate exceeds the large project / small project threshold, the project is considered a large project.  This is true even if all individual sites within the project are damaged less than the large project threshold amount.

The Project Worksheet

What is a Project Worksheet?

A Project Worksheet is the form used to document the scope of work and cost estimate for a project. This form supplies FEMA with the information necessary to approve the scope of work and itemized cost estimate prior to funding.  Each project must be documented on a separate Project Worksheet.  The approved Project Worksheet will then be the basis for funding under the Public Assistance Program.

A project is a logical method of performing work required as a result of the declared event. You may include more than one damage site in a project. This offers flexibility in organizing and managing the work around your needs.

Once you have consolidated similar work items into projects, you will need to fully document your damage and repair plan by completing a Project Worksheet for each project.  Although more than one site can be combined to make a project, only one project may be listed on a Project Worksheet.

How do I complete the Project Description?

The Project Description describes the facility, location, its pre-disaster function, and the disaster-related damage.  From that information, the scope of work is developed describing in detail the work necessary to return the facility to its pre-disaster design.  The damage description and scope of work should be listed in the areas provided on the Project Worksheet.  For a complete, accurate and itemized damage description and scope of work you will need to:

  • Describe the pre-disaster facility, function and location (including Latitude/Longitude when known).

  • Describe the disaster-related damage to the facility.

  • Describe the repairs necessary to repair the facility to its pre-disaster design (scope of work). Describe any change in the pre-disaster design of the facility that is required.

  • Describe any known environmental or historic issues or concerns related to the repair. Environmental and historic issues are concerns included in a grouping referred to as Special Considerations and is discussed more fully in Chapter 7.

  • Describe any damage that could be repaired in such a manner as to reduce the risk of the same damage from happening again.  This type of preventive repair is known as Hazard Mitigation and is discussed more fully in Chapter 7.

How do I describe the Project Location?

The exact location of the damaged facility must be described.  This information should be specific enough to enable field personnel to easily locate the facility if a site visit is necessary.  Providing latitude/longitude coordinates will facilitate locating and mapping of your projects and should be included, whenever possible.

The following are examples of possible location descriptions for different types of facilities:

  • Building

  • Provide the address including street name and community (e.g., 1235 Ashnut Lane, Reston, VA)

  • Street, road or bridge

  • Name the intersecting street boundaries, where applicable (i.e., Main Street between Elm and Third Streets)

  • Provide other information that documents the exact location of the facility (i.e., Miller Avenue Bridge, 1/3 mile north of City limit, mile marker #24)

  • A rural road should be identified by township, range, section and road number (i.e., T7S, R14W, Sec. 28, TR 108)

  • Water or sewer line

  • Identify the closest street address along with the proximity of the line to that location (i.e., Sewer - 201 N. Cedar Street, on West side of street at alley)

How do I complete the Description of Damage? (including dimensions and quantities)

The damage must be described in terms of the function of the facility and its features, or items requiring repair.  Note the differences in the damage descriptions in the examples below:

Example 1:

  • Incomplete:  Two classroom buildings sustained water damage

  • Complete:  Floodwater inundated two classroom buildings that serve 250 students, to a depth of two feet, damaging drywall, tile flooring, and books in all 14 rooms.

Example 2:

  • Incomplete:  Floodwaters caused damage to the parking lot.

  • Complete:  Floodwaters undermined the northwest corner of the parking lot.  The parking lot has a total capacity to park 100 vehicles. Floodwaters caused the asphalt surface and gravel sub-base to settle over a 1000 sq. ft. area, affecting 15 parking spaces, resulting in broken asphalt and compromised sub-base requiring complete replacement.

    Not only must the function of the facility be described, but all damaged elements of a facility must be clearly defined in quantitative terms with physical dimensions (e.g., 800'L  x  16'W x 4"H, aggregate surface).  Without appropriate dimensions, proper estimates of material quantities and costs cannot be developed.  Note the differences in the dimensions defined in the examples below:

Example 1:

  • Incomplete:  High winds and hail destroyed a wooden storage shed.

  • Complete:  High winds and hail destroyed a 20’L x 20’W x 14’H wooden storage shed.

Example 2:

  • Incomplete:  Floodwaters washed away a 20-foot section of earthen road embankment.

  • Complete:  Floodwaters washed away a 20’L x 5’W x 10’H section of earthen embankment along a secondary two-lane asphalt paved road, resulting in travel being restricted to one lane.

How do I describe the damage?

The specific cause of damage must relate to the incident for which the disaster was declared.  It is important to completely describe the cause of damage because it can affect eligibility determinations.  For instance, consider the two situations described below:

  • Damage from wind-driven rain may be covered by a general insurance policy, but damage from floodwaters may require a flood insurance policy.  The difference could affect the insurance coverage reduction applied to the grant.

  • Widespread alligator cracking is not normally eligible for repair because it generally indicates a lack of maintenance.  However, cracking in specific areas due to settlement from soils saturated by floodwaters may be eligible for repair.

How do I complete the Description of Eligible Work?

The scope of work necessary to repair the damage must be completely described and correspond directly to the cause of damage.  The work should be specified in quantifiable (length, width, height, depth, capacity) and descriptive (brick, wood, asphalt, timber deck bridge) terms. See the following examples for incomplete versus complete scopes of work:

Example 1:

  • Incomplete Scope of Work:  100’L x 75’W section of gym floor sustained water damage when facility was inundated with 6’ of floodwater.  Restore to pre-disaster design.

  • Complete Scope of Work:  100’L x 75’W section of gym floor in an elementary school sustained water damage when the facility was inundated with 6’ of floodwater.  Sand and refinish 100’L x 75’W gym damaged area using .25” thick flooring; repaint lines for basketball court (100 sq. ft. of surface area).

  • Work completed:  Sand and refinish 100’L x 75’W gym floor with .25” thick flooring

  • Work to be completed:  Repaint lines for basketball court (100 sq. ft. of surface area)

  • Incomplete Scope of Work:  High winds toppled and destroyed six 40’H power poles and one transformer.  Connecting wires were knocked down along a 0.25-mile stretch of River Road, but were not broken.  Replace the damaged parts in the system.

Example 2:

  • Complete Scope of Work:  High winds toppled and destroyed six 40’H power poles and one (12 KVa) transformer of a residential power distribution subsystem.  Connecting wires were also knocked down along this 0.25-mile stretch of River Road, but were not broken.  Remove and dispose destroyed power poles and transformer.  Replace six 40’H power poles and one (12 KVa) transformer.  Restring all connecting wires.

  • Work Completed: Remove and dispose destroyed 6 power poles and 1 transformer, and .25 miles of 12KVA connecting wire.

  • Work to be completed: Replace power poles and one 12 KVa transformer.  Restring .25 miles of 12 KVa connecting wire.

If part of the work is completed prior to preparation of the Project Worksheet, the actual work that was performed should be distinguished from the work remaining.

Example of a completed Project Description:

Damaged Facility - Township Road 415 is an 18-foot wide gravel road with a uniform surface course consisting of 2 inches of crushed limestone aggregate.

Work Complete as of 02/17/99:  10%

Location – The road was damaged at the crossing of Mill Creek approximately 2.5 miles south of the intersection of Township Road 415 and State Route 5 in Jones Township, Wayne County.

Latitude  26° 75.21   Longitude  95° 20.09

Damage Description & Dimensions– Floodwaters from Mill Creek destroyed a 24' section of 48" CMP culvert and rock slope protection around both ends of the culvert.  Floodwaters also washed out the road around the culvert for a distance of 20 LF across the entire width of the road for a width of 20 LF.  These damages include the 8-foot high road embankment, 6-inches of aggregate base course, and 2 inches of limestone aggregate surface course.  Site stabilization, clean up, and closure of the road work activities have been completed at this site.

Scope of Work – Restore washout site by placing 24' of 48" CMP culvert, 197 tons of compacted unclassified fill, 12 tons of aggregate base course and 4 tons of crushed limestone aggregate surface course.  Place 7 tons of rock slope protection around the culvert at the upstream and downstream road embankment, for a total of 14 tons.

Proposed hazard mitigation: Replace the destroyed 48" CMP culvert with a 60" CMP culvert to increase the capacity of the culvert.

Are there special issues I need to show on the Project Worksheet?

Yes.  The key to expedited small project review and approval is early identification of factors that affect compliance with environmental resources, disaster assistance, and historic preservation legislation and Executive Orders on floodplain, wetlands, and environmental justice.  Using the Special Considerations Questions (FEMA Form 90-120), on the next page as a quick reference, note any Special Considerations associated with each project and include that information on the Project Worksheet.

Things to keep in mind

  • You will want to keep a copy of the Special Considerations Questions with the other documentation on the project to show that these regulatory issues were considered.  It is not necessary for you to perform extensive research in order to answer these questions.  It is more important that any considerations simply be noted on your Project Worksheet, thus alerting the PAC early on in the process.

  • You may want to submit projects with identified Special Considerations issues as soon as possible, since these projects will need to be reviewed by specialists prior to project approval and funding.

  • Along with Special Consideration documentation, other information that is pertinent to the scope of work, including upgrades due to codes and standards or pre-disaster damage or maintenance problems should be documented.

  • When describing any Special Considerations issue, discuss the item with the PAC who will explain how to clearly document the issue and expedite resolution.

  • Use a separate paragraph within the scope of work to describe any proposed changes to the pre-disaster design of the facility.  Hazard mitigation, an improved project, an alternate project, or applicable codes and standards may result in a change to the pre-disaster design of the facility.  (These terms will be discussed later in this book.)

  • Environmental review requires that the scope of the project be defined as the entire project and the proposed changes, not just the Federally funded portion.

  • Your PAC will help you with any of these Special Considerations issues as they arise.

Special Considerations Questions

How do I complete the Cost Estimate?

The Cost Estimate is the estimated cost of repair for the damages described in the Project Description.  For work that has already been completed at the time the Project Worksheet is prepared, the actual costs should be used.

There are many methods of estimating the cost of uncompleted work, from professional estimating guides such as R.S. Means, to time and materials estimation of a local force account crew.  It is very important to use a method of estimating that you are familiar with and understand.  Whenever possible, use your normal method of estimating maintenance and capital improvement projects.

What are some common methods of estimating projects?

  • Time and materials estimate for the local force account work.  This method may be used on projects that will be completed by your employees, using your own (or rented) equipment and material purchased by you (or from your stock on hand).  This method breaks costs down into labor, equipment and materials.  Costs must be thoroughly documented by payroll information, equipment logs or usage records, and other records, such as materials invoices, receipts, payment vouchers, warrants, or work orders.

FEMA has published a listing of equipment rates based on national data for your use.  The equipment rates schedule will be handed out during the Kickoff Meeting, and are also available at FEMA's  These rates, or the applicant's established rates, whichever are lower, should be used to compute applicant-owned equipment costs.  A listing of FEMA's equipment rates is included with the FEMA cost code listing.  Remember however, that FEMA equipment rates do not include operator costs, so these costs will have to be computed separately.  FEMA rates do not apply to contracted or rental equipment, unless the equipment is rented from another public entity.  If you have your own equipment rates approved under State guidelines, such rates are eligible up to a rate of $75 per hour.

Labor hours should be carefully matched with equipment use hours to ensure consistency.  Remember that equipment not in use is not an eligible expense even if it is on-site.

  • Competitively bid contracts are used to summarize costs for work that the applicant has obtained from an outside source.  In general, contract costs are for work already completed, but in some cases may outline work that is just beginning or still underway.  If work has not yet begun on a project, but a contract has been bid or let for the eligible work, then the contract price can be used.  General types of contracts include:

  • Unit price - Contract for work done on an itemized basis with prices broken out per unit.

  • Lump sum -Contract for work within a prescribed boundary with a clearly defined scope and a total price.

  • Cost Plus Fixed Fee  - Either a lump sum or unit price contract with a fixed contractor fee added into the price.

  • Time and materials contracts should be avoided but may be allowed for work that is necessary immediately after the disaster has occurred.  If used, you must carefully document contractor expenses. A cost ceiling or "not to exceed" provision also should be included in the contract.  

  • Cost plus a percentage of cost contracts, percentage of construction cost contracts, and contingency contracts are not eligible.

For example, time-and-material contracts for debris should be limited to a maximum of 70 hours of actual debris clearance work and should be used only after all available local, tribal and State government equipment has been committed.  These contracts should be terminated once the designated dollar ceiling or not-to-exceed number of hours is reached.  On occasion, they may be extended for a short period when absolutely necessary, for example, until Unit Price contracts have been prepared and executed.

Project Worksheet

Are there different types of projects?

Formulated projects will result in one of four (4) types of projects with different funding restrictions.   The four types of projects are:

Small Project – A small project is any project which has a cost estimate less than the current threshold for large / small projects.  This threshold changes every October 1 based on the consumer price index.  For Federal fiscal year 1999 the threshold is $47,800.  Funding for small projects is based on the approved estimate to complete the scope of work.  If the applicant discovers a significant cost overrun related to the actual cost to complete all estimated small projects, then an appeal may be submitted for the additional funds within 60 days of completing the last small project.

Large Project – A large project is any project which has a cost estimate greater than the threshold for large / small projects ($47,800 for Federal FY 99).  All large projects are funded based on actual costs to complete the eligible scope of work.  The funding for each large project will be adjusted after all work is complete.

Improved Project – An improved project is any project (large or small) where the applicant chooses to make additional improvements to the facility while making disaster repairs.  For the most part, these are projects in which the funding for approved work cannot be tracked within the improved projects because of physical changes or contracting arrangements.  For example, an applicant might propose laying asphalt on a gravel road or replacing a firehouse that originally had two bays with one that has three.

Funding for improved projects is limited to the approved Federal estimate to complete the eligible scope of work for repair of the existing facility (without the improvements).  The State may approve an improved project, however FEMA must review the project for compliance with environmental and historic statutes and other Special Considerations that apply.  If improvements are required (e.g., ADA ramp alternate location) the project may not be considered an improved project, but an environmental review still may be required.

Alternate Project – An alternate project is any permanent restoration project (large or small) where the applicant chooses to abandon the facility and its function rather than make disaster repairs.  The applicant may use any Federal share funds, limited to the approved Federal estimate to complete the eligible scope of work, at another facility.  There is a 10% reduction in the FEMA funds for all alternate projects.  FEMA must perform an environmental review and approve all alternate projects.

An example of an alternate project would be if a school decided not to rebuild a destroyed gymnasium but to construct office space.


What type of documentation do I need?

The importance of maintaining a complete and accurate set of records for each project cannot be overemphasized.  This will facilitate the validation, approval, and funding processes for your projects.

All of the documentation pertaining to a project should be filed together with the corresponding Project Worksheet and maintained by you as the permanent record of the project.  These records become the basis for verifying your final project costs, and, for small projects, will be used as discussed in Chapter 5 to sample and validate your estimated project costs.

Documentation is the process of establishing and maintaining accurate records of events and expenditures related to your disaster recovery work.  The information required for your documentation basically describes the “who, what, when, where, why, and how much” for each item of disaster recovery work.

How should I maintain my records?

There are many ways to maintain your records.  What is important is that you have the necessary information readily available, and that this information is in a usable format.  It is important that you accurately document the events and expenses incurred in disaster response and recovery.  Accurate documentation will help you to:

  • Recover all of your eligible costs.

  • Have the information necessary to develop your disaster projects.

  • Have the information available, which the State and FEMA will need to see, to validate the accuracy of your small projects.

  • Be ready for any State or Federal audits, or other Federal program reviews.

  • Provide Federal compliance data by maintaining all information on the alternatives that were considered for projects where an environmental or historic assessment was required.

What do I need to do?????????

When disaster strikes, your community will spend financial and human resources on such things as search and rescue, mass evacuations, demolition of damaged buildings, debris removal, reconstruction of damaged facilities, and other tasks to permanently restore your community.  To ensure that work performed both before and after a disaster declaration is well documented, you should:

  • Designate a person to coordinate the accumulation of records.

  • Establish a file for each project where work has been or will be performed.  For projects that include more than one physical site, records showing specific costs and scopes of work should be maintained by site to expedite insurance and other Special Considerations reviews.

  • Maintain accurate disbursement and accounting records to document the work performed and the costs incurred.

What records do I need to keep and for how long?

All of the following records may not be applicable to every project, but everything that does pertain to a project should be filed with the corresponding Project Worksheet.  You should retain these records for three (3) years from the date the State closes your grant.

Checklist for Each Project

  • Completed Project Worksheet

  • Completed Special Considerations Questions form

  • Estimated and actual costs

  • Force account labor

  • Force account equipment

  • Rented equipment

  • Materials and purchases

  • Photographs of damage, work underway, work completed

  • Insurance information

  • Environmental and/or historic alternatives and hazard mitigation opportunities considered for large, improved or alternate projects

  • Environmental Review Documents

  • Records of donated goods and services

May I use my own records system?

Absolutely.  If you already have a system you want to use, just be sure to compile your documentation according to the Project Number, which your Public Assistance Coordinator will assign to your Project Worksheet.  You should keep all documentation for three (3) years following the State’s closure of your grant.  Under the “Single Audit Act,” there is a possibility of an audit by State auditors and/or the FEMA Office of Inspector General.

Are there summary records to help me organize my work?

Yes.  Keeping accurate documentation will make validation quicker and easier by providing you with the information that the State and FEMA will need to see.  A set of six optional summary forms has been developed to assist you in organizing your project documentation.  The summary forms are:

Force Account Labor Summary (FEMA Form 90-123)

Used to record your personnel costs

Force Account Equipment Summary (FEMA Form 90-127)

Used to record your equipment use costs

Materials Summary Record (FEMA Form 90-124)

Used to record the supplies and materials that you take out of stock or purchase

Rented Equipment Summary Record (FEMA Form 90-125)

Used to record the costs of rented or leased equipment

Contract Work Summary Record (FEMA Form 90-126)

Used to record the costs of work you have done by contractor

Applicant's Benefits Calculation Worksheet (FEMA Form 90-128)

Used to record fringe benefit pay for employees

Copies of the summary record forms and instructions are shown in Appendix D of this book entitled "Applicant Record-Keeping Forms and Instruction."  Electronic copies of these forms are available from your PAC.

What are the completion deadlines?

It is important that you track work and expenditures regularly so that you capture all expenses that may be eligible for funding and are prepared to meet the time limits set for completing eligible work.  The time frames for completing eligible work are measured from the date of declaration of your area.  The completion deadlines are:

  • Debris clearance            6 months

  • Emergency work            6 months

  • Permanent work            18 months

Extensions may be granted by the State based on extenuating circumstances or unusual project requirements beyond your control.  Debris and emergency work can be extended an additional 6 months; and permanent restoration work may be extended an additional 30 months.  Details on extensions may be found in the Public Assistance Guide and as always, the PAC and Liaison are available to answer any questions you may have.

Small Project Validation

What is Small Project Validation?

A distinctive aspect of small project approval is the verification of the accuracy of your claims by FEMA and/or State officials through a process called validation.  This process assures FEMA that you understand the documentation and eligibility provisions of the Public Assistance Program and that you are capturing all eligible costs.  Your records are the basis for validation, which will be limited to the minimum amount of review needed to ensure statutory and regulatory compliance.

  • This will normally be 20%, barring significant discrepancies, of all your small projects, for projects submitted within the first 30 days after the Kickoff Meeting.  Normally, projects submitted after 30 days will be subject to 100% validation.

  • Your PAC will schedule validation at a time convenient for you, and you will be notified in advance which projects have been selected.  This will allow you to have the appropriate records ready for review.

  • Validation can normally be completed within 15 days of submission of all Project Worksheets to the PAC.

How does it work?

The validation process begins when your Project Worksheets are submitted to the PAC.  The PAC will review each worksheet to ensure the scope of work is complete and that all Special Considerations have been identified.  Once you have determined that all small projects have been submitted, or a large batch of projects has been submitted, you should notify the PAC to proceed with validation.  The PAC will request a Specialist from the FEMA / State resource pool to conduct the validation.  The PAC, with input from the State, will select two samples from all the small projects you have submitted.  Each sample is made up of 20% of the total small projects. If the first sample does not pass validation, the Specialist will conduct a second validation using the remaining sample.  If an applicant has 4 or fewer Project Worksheets, a minimum of 1 Project Worksheet will always be validated.

What will the Specialist be looking for?

A Specialist will be assigned to conduct the validation and will perform the following tasks:

  • Visit the sites to confirm all aspects of the project description are accurate, complete and that all Special Considerations have been identified.

  • Confirm the damage description is complete, accurate and eligible.

  • Confirm the scope of work is complete, accurate and eligible.

  • Review all actual cost records to ensure completeness, accuracy and eligibility.

  • Review your cost estimate to ensure it is complete, accurate, reasonable and eligible.

These tasks will require the Specialist to review the project file including all cost records, computations, measurements, notes, pictures, blueprints, plans, environmental conditions, Special Considerations, and any other documentation related to the project.  You are responsible for documenting all claimed costs.  This is a critical responsibility since undocumented costs could be considered a variance and potentially put you over the 20% allowable variance. When this happens, the second 20% sample must be validated.

What happens during validation?

The Specialist will use a Validation Worksheet  (FEMA Form 90-118) and a Project Validation Form (FEMA Form 90-119) to record variances on eligibility and costs estimates.  A variance is the difference between the information the applicant has included in the project and the information that the Specialist determines to be eligible and reasonable.

  • Eligibility differences will occur when the applicant includes ineligible work in the scope of work or ineligible items in the components of a project

  • Cost estimate variances will occur when the applicant has made an error in estimating a project cost.

  • Variances are recorded as the difference in dollar cost assigned to the item in question by the applicant and the dollar cost determined by the Specialist.

The Specialist will note and correct all eligibility and cost variances, and these changes will be made on the Project Worksheets.  If the total variances on the first sample projects do not exceed 20% of the cost of the sample projects, the results of validation are satisfactory. If the results are satisfactory but minor error patterns are seen the applicant will be encouraged to review all other projects for similar problems.  After you have made any of these corrections, all small projects without Special Considerations will be approved and funded by the PAC.

If the results of validation are unsatisfactory, the Specialist will validate the second sample using the same process.  If the total eligibility and cost variance on all projects does not exceed 20% of the total cost for all projects in both samples the validation results are satisfactory.  If however, the second sample results are also unsatisfactory, the PAC will assign a Specialist to assist you in reformulating and resubmitting all projects.  Projects being reformulated will be obligated as each Project Worksheet is completed and reviewed by the PAC.

Those small projects with Special Considerations will be individually funded as the Special Considerations issues are resolved.  All small projects submitted after 30 days from the Kickoff Meeting may be validated on an individual basis and will be obligated as each validation is completed.

Will more than the two samples ever be validated?

Yes.  All Project Worksheets submitted later than 30 days from the Kickoff Meeting may be validated and all variances corrected.

Your PAC can answer any specific questions you may have concerning validation.

What do I need to know?

  • If expedited funding is requested, emergency work Project Worksheets can be processed by the PAC and handled separately for the purposes of validation.

  • If, during the first 30 days, you submit all small projects at one time, they will be validated as a group; if you submit small projects at more than one time, each group may be validated individually.  The choice is yours, based on your funding or other needs.

  • You are responsible for maintaining all documentation needed to support the project listed on the Project Worksheet.

  • Normally, you are not required to submit supporting documentation to FEMA, but you should retain it for three (3) years from the date the State closes your grant.

  • Validation of your small projects will be scheduled so you will know in advance when and which projects will be validated.  This will give you the opportunity to have all pertinent records ready for review and expedite the validation process.

  • Review the following Validation Worksheet to become familiar with what the Specialist will be looking for during the validation process.

Handling Large Projects

What is a Large Project?

A large project is eligible work, either emergency or permanent, costing $47,800 or more (this threshold is adjusted annually at the beginning of the Federal fiscal year.)  Large projects are not only more costly but also typically more complex to manage than small ones.  To facilitate the oversight of large projects, a streamlined formulation process is used that consolidates specialized expertise in the disaster area.

In addition, a cost estimating tool based on construction industry estimating standards may be used on large projects to prepare accurate estimates of repair costs for permanent work.  Since large projects are approved on estimated cost, but funded on actual cost, this tool permits better budgeting of funds and improved project management.  Large project funding is based on the Federal share of eligible costs.  You are reimbursed for actual eligible expenses incurred.

How are Large Projects handled?

When the PAC reviews your damage list at the Kickoff Meeting, the identification of obvious large projects takes place.  A Project Officer (PO) will be assigned to work with you on each of your large projects, helping to identify and evaluate all the work activities associated with the project(s).  It will be the responsibility of the PO to prepare a comprehensive Project Worksheet for each large project.

The process for handling large projects takes advantage of FEMA's nationwide network of infrastructure and cost estimating experts. The PO is able to call upon other specialists, as needed, to assist in developing the scope of work, cost estimates and identifying environmental issues.  Review of Special Considerations items and project validation processes are built into the formulation process for all large projects and are handled by the PO.

What do I need to do?

  • You begin the process by preparing a list of your damage sites, including any potential large projects, and submitting that list to your PAC at the Kickoff Meeting.

  • On the damage list, include the name, location, a brief description of each damaged facility, work completed to date, as well as any Special Considerations items that you are aware of.

  • Contact the PAC before initiating repairs or construction of any project with potential Special Considerations issues such as environmental or historic concerns.  Failure to obtain approval prior to construction may cause funding delays or suspension of funding.

  • Provide a knowledgeable person to work with the PO.  This person’s duties will include escorting the PO and any State representative on a site visit, and he or she will participate in developing a complete scope of work and accurate cost estimate.

  • Contract and project specialists on your staff should be made available to help in project development whenever appropriate.

What is the Cost Estimating Format?

The Cost Estimating Format (CEF) is a tool that may be used to estimate the cost of large permanent work projects.  The CEF is a forward-pricing methodology developed by FEMA to more accurately estimate total project costs based on construction industry standards.  Eligible costs are reimbursed for actual incurred expenses and final costs are reconciled based upon the underrun or overrun realized.  By providing better up-front estimates for work that has not been substantially completed, use of the CEF will minimize the possibility of significant variances and allow you to budget project costs with greater confidence. The PO is responsible for application of the CEF.

The CEF has been tested against data from large project closeouts and undergone a peer review by an independent group of industry experts who evaluated the methodology and substantiated the component factors. FEMA uses experienced cost estimators and professional construction engineers to apply the CEF.  The PO and your PAC can provide an explanation of the methodology at the Kickoff Meeting, and during large project formulation if the CEF is used.

How are Large Projects funded?

Large Projects are funded using a final accounting of actual costs.  The steps for processing a large project are described below:

  1. The Federal, State and local team develops an eligible scope of work and an initial estimate is prepared. After an environmental review, FEMA approves funding using the estimate and obligates the Federal share of the funds to the State.

  2. Funding of any Federally funded project is contingent on the resolution of any Special Considerations issues.

  3. Funds are transferred to the State account and the State initiates payment to you.

  4. As the project proceeds, you may periodically request funds from the State to meet expenses that have been incurred or that are expected to occur in the near future.  In anticipating the need for payments to contractors, be sure to take into account the time that the State process requires for approval of requests and disbursement.  Each State handles disbursements differently, and exact details for your State will be explained at the Applicants’ Briefing.

  5. If the project's scope of work changes, even if it does not affect the total project cost, your PAC and Liaison should both be notified so that FEMA can screen the changes for potential environmental impacts.

  6. When the project is complete, the State reviews the final eligible cost of completing the work and performs such inspections and audits as it deems necessary and submits a report on the completed project to FEMA, certifying that the applicant’s costs were incurred in the completion of eligible work.

  7. After reviewing the State's report and conducting such inspections or audits as are necessary to verify eligible costs, FEMA may adjust (obligate/de-obligate) the amount of the grant to reflect the actual cost of the eligible work.

What do I need to do?

While proceeding with the project, you must ensure that grant funds are used only for eligible work.  FEMA will not provide funds for costs that are outside the approved scope of work.

You should contact the State if the scope of work changes during construction, or if actual construction costs change significantly from the original estimate.

You can expedite the handling of your large projects by early initiation of environmental review procedures, identification of any conditions that require special consideration, and include any mitigation in the project design.

Provide a design/construction timeline for each of your large projects, and include (as appropriate) start and finish dates for both the design and/or construction phases.  The timeline must be referenced to the eligible scope-of-work only.  This criteria also applies to improved and alternate projects.

You are responsible for maintaining all source documentation needed to support your large projects.  Examples of source documents are invoices, payment vouchers, warrants, employee timesheets, purchase orders, item slips, weight slips, plans and specifications, design and/or construction contracts, insurance policies, environmental clearance letters and permits, etc.  Your PAC and PO can assist you in determining what records are needed.

As a rule, you are not required to submit all source documentation to FEMA, but sufficient documentation must be submitted at the time of the large project closeout to document actual costs.

You should retain all documentation for three (3) years from the date the State closes your grant.

You are not responsible for completing Project Worksheets or applying the CEF to your large projects.  These responsibilities remain with the PO, who will consult with you on the scope of work, unit prices and supporting documentation.

You are responsible for submitting supporting backup documentation to the PO for review during large project formulation.

Examples of supporting backup documentation are:

  • site maps (or location plans)

  • photographs

  • sketches

  • calculations

  • measurements

  • copy of insurance documentation including anticipated insurance settlement or actual insurance settlement

  • hazard mitigation proposal(s)

  • force account summary sheets

  • appropriate codes and standards

  • permits and clearances

  • schematic drawings and a set of plans (preferably reduced to 11" x 17") containing basic information such as elevations, floor plans, site plan, structural plans and sections, etc. for construction activities such as water control facilities and large buildings

  • environmental and historic clearance letters and permits

During the Kickoff Meeting, your PAC will assist you in determining what records will be needed for documenting your large projects.

Are there deadlines and timelines?

When progress reports are required, the format by which you submit this information will be determined by the State.

  • Submit list of large and small projects at the Kickoff Meeting.

  • Submit your design and/or construction timeline during the large project formulation phase to the PO.

  • The deadline for submission of any damages that were not previously identified is 60 days from the date of the Kickoff Meeting.  In extreme circumstances, such as widespread catastrophic damage, that prohibit adherence to deadlines, notify your PAC as soon as possible.

  • Completion of emergency work projects:  6 months from the date of declaration.

  • Completion of permanent work projects:  18 months from the date of declaration.

  • Extensions may be granted by the State based on extenuating circumstances or unusual project requirements beyond your control.

  • Debris and emergency work may be extended an additional 6 months.

  • Permanent restoration work may be extended an additional 30 months.

  • The State may require you to submit progress reports for its analysis and evaluation.  The State is required to submit periodic information on the status of large projects to FEMA.  Generally, the elements of the progress report will describe:

    1. The status of the project, i.e., "in design," "under construction," etc.;

    2. A projected completion date; and

    3. Any problems or circumstances that delay the project, or result in noncompliance with the conditions of the FEMA project approval, such as grant conditions on environmental and historic issues, or other grant conditions specified in an Environmental Assessment or Memorandum of Agreement.  (See Special Considerations.)

  • Work on projects with environmental and/or historic preservation issues should not begin prior to FEMA review of these issues.

Special Considerations Guidelines

What are Special Considerations?

Special Considerations is a term used by FEMA to refer to matters that require specialized attention.  These include insurance, historic, environmental, and hazard mitigation issues.  FEMA and the State are required to ensure that all funding actions are in compliance with current State and Federal laws, regulations, and agency policy.  You can assist FEMA and the State in resolving Special Considerations issues in order to expedite disaster recovery funding.

You have a key role in identifying Special Considerations issues since you are most familiar with projects that have been identified for disaster recovery funding.  We can assist you in addressing these Special Considerations issues so they are resolved quickly.  It should be noted that for environmental compliance, FEMA is only assuring compliance because Federal funds are involved.  FEMA funding action compliance does not exempt you from complying with any other local, State, or Federal regulations. It should also be noted that environmental, insurance, and other Special Considerations issues are typically site specific.  Certain sites may require special reviews by FEMA or the permitting agencies. You are still responsible for obtaining all necessary permits.


Insurance issues are often disaster and site specific and can be complicated.  All insurance issues should be discussed with the Public Assistance Coordinator (PAC) at the Kickoff Meeting or as soon as possible, to allow for timely resolution.

What happens if a facility is insured?

FEMA must reduce all project grants for insured property by the amount of actual insurance proceeds received or by the amount of proceeds that can be reasonably anticipated from a review of the insurance policy.  This reduction will be made prior to project approval and noted in the cost estimating section of the Project Worksheet.

You, as the applicant, must report any entitlement to insurance proceeds to your PAC.  This means you must submit copies of all insurance documentation including the insurance policy with all data, declarations, endorsements, exclusions, schedules and other attachments or amendments.  Also, any settlement documentation including copies of the claim, proof of loss, statement of loss, and any other documentation describing the covered items and insurance proceeds available for those items must be submitted.  This documentation will be used to determine your level of project funding.

It is important to begin the claims process with your insurance company as soon as possible and to keep the PAC informed of any problems.  The PAC will obtain an insurance Specialist to review the documentation and determine the amount of insurance proceeds available on the project.  If the facility is rented, a copy of the lease or rental agreement may be necessary.

What is an insurable risk?

Insurance may be purchased for a variety of valuable properties, generally the following are insurable:

  • Buildings,

  • Contents of buildings,

  • Vehicles,

  • Equipment.

If you have over $5,000 in damages to any insurable facility, including equipment, vehicles, etc., FEMA will require you to obtain and maintain insurance coverage on that facility as a condition of receiving disaster assistance.  In addition, if any other specific insurance is reasonably available, adequate and necessary to insure any facility, you may be required to obtain and maintain that insurance coverage.

The type (flood, earthquake, wind, comprehensive, etc.) of insurance and the amount of insurance required is directly related to the disaster damage.  The required insurance coverage must cover the facility for the type of hazard that caused the damage and in the minimum amount of the damage repair costs.  The insurance coverage must be maintained for the useful life of the repairs.

The required insurance coverage must be obtained, or letter of commitment accepted by the State, prior to the release of any Federal funds.  You are responsible for obtaining the insurance coverage that best meets your needs.  It is recommended you begin shopping for insurance coverage as soon as possible and have the required insurance coverage in place quickly after project approval.

What if the facility is located within the Special Flood Hazard Area?

There are specific requirements for facilities located within the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA).  These requirements are not technically insurance issues but are related to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).  These requirements apply to flood damaged buildings and the contents of buildings located in the 100-year floodplain. 

If your community is not participating in the NFIP, FEMA will not provide Public Assistance funds for damages to your buildings, or the contents of such buildings, that are located within the 100-year floodplain.  FEMA will also not provide funding for damages within the floodplain if you have been sanctioned by NFIP (i.e., if your community was suspended from the program by NFIP).

If your community is participating in the NFIP, FEMA will reduce all grants for buildings and the contents of buildings located within the 100-year floodplain.  The amount of the reduction will be the maximum amount of insurance proceeds available for the work under a standard NFIP flood insurance policy or the actual insurance proceeds received, whichever is greater.

Discuss any buildings and the contents of any building damaged by flooding and located within the Special Flood Hazard Area with the PAC at the Kickoff Meeting or as soon as possible.  FEMA will need to know if the community in which the facility is located is participating in the NFIP, the date the building was constructed, and its exact location within the 100-year floodplain.

What other documentation is required for insurance issues?

It is important to describe the hazard (flood, wind, fire, hail, etc) that caused the disaster damage in the project description.  Insurance coverage often excludes certain hazards and may only cover certain damaged items within a project.  In addition, a single facility may have been damaged by multiple hazards, such as wind and flood damage during a hurricane and there may only be insurance coverage for some of those hazards.

Finally, if the facility has ever received disaster assistance from FEMA this must also be reported.  It must be determined if any required insurance coverage on past disasters was obtained and maintained.  If the required insurance coverage was not obtained or maintained, FEMA may not provide assistance for the facility.  Discuss all past disaster damages and claims for Federal assistance with your PAC.

Hazard Mitigation

What is Hazard Mitigation?

Hazard mitigation is any cost-effective measure that will reduce the potential for damage from a disaster event.  Under the Public Assistance Program, Section 406 Hazard Mitigation, the measures must apply only to the damaged elements of a facility rather than to other, undamaged parts of the facility or to the entire system.  It is important to note that under the Public Assistance Program, hazard mitigation measures are considered part of the total eligible cost of repair, restoration, reconstruction, or replacement of a facility and only apply to permanent work projects (Categories C through G).

Hazard mitigation measures are very important in minimizing the impact of future disaster events and in making your facilities disaster resistant.  Your PAC and Liaison will be very interested in working with you to identify all opportunities to mitigate future disaster events while formulating your projects.

How do I identify hazard mitigation on my projects?

Hazard mitigation measures are identified by preparing a Hazard Mitigation Proposal (HMP).  The HMP is not a form, it is simply a written description and cost of what it will take to repair this damage in such a way as to prevent this damage from happening again. FEMA, the State, or the applicant may identify and propose hazard mitigation measures on any project.  The HMP is submitted with the Project Worksheet and describes in detail the additional work and cost associated with completing the mitigation measure.

When approved, the additional work is a change in the scope of work, and is described in a separate paragraph within the scope of work (see the example of a complete Project Description under the chapter on Project Worksheets).  The cost of the proposed mitigation measure should be provided on the Project Worksheet.

Hazard mitigation opportunities usually present themselves at sites where damages are repetitive and a simple repair will solve the problem, such as the previous culvert example.  However, some mitigation opportunities are technically complex and must be thoroughly documented for feasibility.  If you would like technical assistance in preparing a HMP or in identifying hazard mitigation measures contact your PAC.

How do I know if a Hazard Mitigation Proposal has been approved?

Your PAC will begin the approval process for projects with mitigation as soon as you identify the issue.  The applicant is responsible for submitting the cost-benefit summary for mitigation projects. The PAC may obtain a hazard mitigation Specialist from the resource pool to analyze the HMP for cost effectiveness and feasibility.  In addition, hazard mitigation will often change the pre-disaster design of the facility and will require consideration of environmental and historic preservation issues.  An important concern is the effect the mitigation will have, for example, downstream, if the mitigation deals with drainage issues.  Your PAC will inform you when the HMP is approved.  When approved, you are required to complete the hazard mitigation measure while completing the repair documented on the Project Worksheet.

Is mitigation funding available for undamaged facilities?

Hazard Mitigation, Section 404, is a State managed funding provided for in the Stafford Act.  Section 404 mitigation measures do not have to be structural in nature and does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Public Assistance (PA) Program.  Applicants who have questions regarding the Section 404 mitigation program should contact the State Hazard Mitigation Officer.

Environmental Considerations

Why do I have to consider the environment?

First off, it's your environment.  It is where you live, work, and play.  It directly affects the livability of your community.  In recovering from a disaster we want to make sure that we don't adversely impact this environment any further than the disaster has already done.  In fact, where possible we should try to enhance it.  Secondly, there are Federal, State and local laws that require us to preserve and protect many of these resources.  Any project that receives Federal funding must comply with applicable Federal laws.  In addition, a condition of all FEMA funded projects is that they conform to State and local laws and ordinances.

What are the Federal environmental laws?

While there are many, the Federal environmental laws that most often relate to FEMA funded projects include: the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Coastal Barriers Resources Act, the Coastal Zone Management Act, the Resources Recovery and Conservation Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  In addition to these laws, the President issues Executive Orders to address specific concerns.  Four Executive Orders most frequently encountered in FEMA projects include wetland protection, floodplain management, environmental justice, and seismic retrofit.  While all projects must conform to each of these laws and Executive Orders, it is, in actuality, the location and nature of the project that determines whether or not a law specifically applies.

What is NEPA and how does it relate to the other laws?

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires that we include an environmental prospective in our project planning by evaluating the potential environmental impacts of the proposed project and ensuring an appropriate level of public involvement takes place.  A good implementation of the NEPA review process is often the means FEMA uses for identifying and considering the requirements of the other environmental laws that apply to the project.  A fundamental requirement of NEPA is that the review must be completed prior to starting the project.  Funding may be jeopardized if this does not happen.

Can my project be exempt from NEPA?

Over 75% of Public Assistance actions are either emergency activities or repair-to-predisaster-design projects.  These types of actions are usually exempt from the NEPA review and documentation process.  Even so, you must be aware that the other environmental laws may still apply and must be addressed.  If the damaged unit is to be upgraded or improved or if mitigation is being added, in which case the unit is not being returned to its predisaster design, it is likely to require a more complete NEPA review.

How does the National Historic Preservation Act affect me?

The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) requires that FEMA consider the direct or indirect effects of undertakings it funds on historic, cultural, or archaeological resources.  These resources include properties that are listed on or eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places or properties that may have important social or cultural significance to your area.  Facilities are generally considered historic when they are 50 years old or older.  Archaeological concerns are usually heightened when there is ground disturbing activities associated with a project.

How will I know if the other laws apply to my project?

A "Yes" response to any of the Special Considerations Questions is an indication that requirements of one or more of these laws might be triggered.  If your project is near or affects a stream, a wetland or other body of water, requires the destruction of an area of natural vegetation, or is in or near a special resource area, like a wildlife refuge, it is likely that you will need input from someone familiar with these laws.  The PAC or an environmental or historic Specialist can give you guidance here.

What do I need to do?

  • Answer all of the Special Considerations questions for each work project.

  • Identify all facilities located in the 100-year floodplain area.

  • Identify all facilities 50 years old or older and/or those that have an important social or cultural significance.

  • Identify if a project will require ground disturbance, particularly of previously undisturbed ground.

  • Look for and request hazard mitigation opportunities.

  • Provide insurance policies to the PAC at the earliest opportunity.  Even if you don’t think the facility is covered under the policy, if a policy exists, provide a copy to the PAC for review.

  • Notify the PAC of all Special Consideration issues as soon as possible.  This will ensure the fastest review and funding.

  • Maintain all documentation that has to do with any identified Special Consideration issues.  Even if they are considered to be of no consequence, keep all related documentation in case any questions arise at a later date.


What is Closeout?

The purpose of closeout is to certify all recovery work is complete and all eligible costs have been reimbursed.  The Public Assistance Program is a reimbursement program and when closing your grant projects, this is the last opportunity to ensure you have received all funding available under the law.  Closeout is an important last step in the Public Assistance Program process.

What do I need to do to close out?

Closeout procedures are different for each State, however, you should notify the State Public Assistance Officer immediately as you complete each large project and when all of your small projects have been completed.

  • You have 6 months to complete emergency work and 18 months to complete permanent work.

  • You may obtain extensions from the State based on extenuating circumstances or unusual project requirements beyond your control.  Debris and emergency work can be extended an additional 6 months.  Permanent restoration work may be extended an additional 30 months.

  • You may close out your small projects when all small projects have been funded and completed.  They will be closed based on the approved cost estimates.

  • You must certify to the State that all funds were expended and all the work described in the project scope of work is complete.

  • If you have a significant cost overrun associated with completing all work on all of your small projects, you may submit an appeal for additional funding.  This request should be made in writing to the State within 60 days of completing the last small project.

  • You will closeout large projects individually as each project is completed.  There is a cost reconciliation (difference between estimated and actual costs for eligible work) on each individual large project when the project is complete.

  • You must notify the State immediately when you have completed each large project.

  • Keep your documentation in order, as it is very important and is required during the closeout process.

  • It is your responsibility to document all costs associated with your projects.  Failure to properly document any project may result in loss of funding for any claimed work.

  • Make sure all documentation for a project is accurate, complete and up to date for closeout review.

Appendix A

The Public Assistance Program

Program Objective

The objective of the Public Assistance Program is to provide assistance to States, local governments, and selected Private Non-Profit organizations for the alleviation of suffering and hardship resulting from major disasters or emergencies declared by the President.

Applicant Eligibility

  1. State and Local Governments, and Special Districts

    • Local Governments

      Any county, city, village, town, district, or other political subdivision of any State and includes any rural community, unincorporated town or village, or other public entity for which an application for assistance is made by a State or political subdivision thereof.

    • Other Political Subdivisions

      Other State and local political subdivisions may be eligible if they are formed in accordance with State law as a separate entity and having taxing authority.  These include, but are not limited to, school districts, irrigation districts, fire districts, and utility districts.

  2. Private Non-Profit Organizations

    All facilities must be open to the general public and provide a government service.

    1. Educational Institutions

      1. Colleges and universities

      2. Parochial and other private schools

    2. Utility

      Systems of energy, communication, water supply, sewage collection and treatment, or other similar public service facilities.

    3. Emergency

      Fire protection, ambulance, rescue, and similar emergency services.

    4. Medical

      Hospital, outpatient facility, rehabilitation facility, or facility for long-term care for mental or physical injury or disease.

    5. Custodial Care

      Homes for the elderly and similar facilities that provide institutional care for persons who require close supervision, but do not require day-to-day medical care.

    6. Other Essential Governmental Service Facilities

      Museums, zoos, community centers, libraries, homeless shelters, senior citizen centers, rehabilitation facilities, shelter workshops and facilities that provide health and safety services of a governmental nature.  Health and safety services are essential services that are commonly provided by all local governments and directly affect the health and safety of individuals.  Low-income housing, alcohol and drug rehabilitation, programs for battered spouses, transportation to medical facilities, and food programs are examples of health services.

  3. Native American and Alaskan Native Tribal Governments

    Indian Tribes or authorized tribal organizations and Alaskan Native village organizations.  This does not include Alaska native Corporations, which are owned by private individuals.

Facility Eligibility

General Eligibility

With certain exceptions, an eligible facility is any building, works, system, or equipment that is built or manufactured, or any improved and maintained natural feature that is owned by an eligible public or Private Non-Profit (PNP) applicant.

  1. An Eligible Facility must:

    • Be the responsibility of an eligible applicant.

    • Be located in a designated disaster area.

    • Not be under the specific authority of another Federal agency.

    • Be in active use at the time of the disaster.

  2. Examples of Eligible Public Facilities may include:

    • Roads (non-Federal aid)

    • Sewage Treatment Plants

    • Airports

    • Irrigation Channels

    • Schools

    • Buildings

    • Bridges and Culverts

    • Utilities

  3. Eligible Private Non-Profit Facilities include:

    • Educational facilities (classrooms, supplies, and equipment)

    • Gas, Water, and Power systems

    • Emergency facilities (fire stations and rescue squads)

    • Medical facilities (hospitals and outpatient centers)

    • Custodial care facilities

    • Essential government services

      (All eligible PNP facilities must be open to the general public)

  4. Restrictions


      If a facility was being used for purposes other than those for which it was designed, restoration will only be eligible to the extent necessary to restore the immediate pre-disaster alternative purpose.


      Facilities that were not in active use at the time of the disaster are not eligible except in those instances where the facilities were only temporarily inoperative for repairs or remodeling, or where active use by the applicant was firmly established in an approved budget, or where the owner can demonstrate to FEMA's satisfaction an intent to begin use within a reasonable time.

Work Eligibility

General Eligibility

  1. An Eligible Item of Work Must:

    • Be required as the result of a major disaster event,

    • Be located within a designated disaster area, and

    • Be the legal responsibility of an eligible applicant.

  2. Other Federal Agency (OFA) Programs

    FEMA will not provide assistance when another Federal agency has specific authority to restore facilities damaged by a major disaster.

  3. Negligence

    No assistance will be provided to an applicant for damages caused by its own negligence through failure to take reasonable protective measures.  If negligence by another party results in damages, assistance may be provided on the condition that the applicant agrees to cooperate with FEMA in all efforts to recover the cost of such assistance from the negligent party.

  4. Special Considerations Requirements

    Necessary assurances shall be provided to document compliance with special requirements including, but not limited to, floodplain management, environmental assessments, hazard mitigation, protection of wetlands, and insurance.

Category A

Debris Removal

Emergency Work

  1. Public Interest Determination By FEMA

    • Eliminate immediate threats to life, public health and safety; or

    • Eliminate immediate threats of significant damage to improved public or private property; or

    • Ensure economic recovery of the affected community to the benefit of the community-at-large.

  2. Private Property Debris Removal
    Debris removal from private property is the responsibility of the individual property owner. When it is in the public interest for an eligible applicant to remove debris, the following criteria exists:

    • On urban, suburban and rural property, including large lots,

    • Clearance of living, recreational and working areas is eligible, except areas used for crops and livestock, or unused areas.

    • No assistance will be provided to individuals or private organizations for removing debris from their own property except for eligible Private Non-Profit applicants.

    • Right of Entry Agreement must be obtained to indemnify the Federal government against any claim arising from such removal.

Category B

 Emergency Protective Measures

  1. General

    • Measures to save lives, to protect public health and safety, and to protect improved property, are eligible.  In order to be eligible, emergency protective measures for property must eliminate or lessen immediate threats of significant damage to improved public or private property through measures that are cost-effective.

    • FEMA may require a certification by local, State and/or Federal officials that a threat exists, including identification and evaluation of the threat and recommendations of the emergency work necessary to cope with the threat.

  2. Emergency Access

    Emergency access may be provided when emergency repair or replacement of a non-public facility economically eliminates the need for temporary housing.  The work is limited to that necessary for the access to remain passable through events that are immediate threats (five-year storm).  The work must be performed by an eligible applicant and it is subject to cost-sharing.

Permanent Restoration of Facilities

  1. General Eligibility

    • Facilities will be restored on the basis of design, capacity and function of such facilities as they existed immediately prior to the disaster and in conformity with applicable standards.

    • Codes and Standards must be in writing, apply to the type of work, and be in place and enforced prior to the disaster declaration. They must apply uniformly to all similar types of facilities.

    • Hazard mitigation measures, which are cost-effective, may be required by FEMA.  Any requirement for hazard mitigation placed on applicants by FEMA will be eligible.  Applicants may and are encouraged to suggest hazard mitigation measures.

    • A facility is considered repairable when disaster damages do not exceed 50% of the cost of replacing a facility.  (Conduct a repair versus replacement analysis if repairs to a facility would appear to cost 50% or more of the cost of replacing the facility.)  For further particulars, see the Public Assistance Guide, FEMA 286 (to be replaced by FEMA 322).

    • Relocation may be approved by FEMA when a facility is subject to repetitive damage, and it is cost-effective to relocate.  When relocation is required by FEMA, eligible work may include land acquisition and such ancillary facilities as roads and utilities.  For further particulars, see the Public Assistance Guide, FEMA 286 (to be replaced by FEMA 322).

Category C

Road Systems

  1. Repairs and Replacements

    The damage must be directly related to the disaster.  It cannot be a pre-existing condition nor caused by an event after the official period of incidence.  Repairs to structures may be made when the estimated repair cost is less than the estimated replacement cost, unless the structure is damaged greater than 50%.  If a structure is damaged to the extent that repairs exceed 50% of the replacement costs, funding may be provided to replace the structure.  The applicant also may choose to make repairs; however, the funding provided will be limited to the cost of replacement.

  2. Road Repiars

    On gravel roads, the base need not be damaged to be eligible for major gravel replacement.  Loss of gravel must be evident.  Potholes and rutted surfaces must be shown to be a result of the disaster event.

  3. Paving

    Loss of paved surface is eligible.  Alligatored surface is generally a sign of normal deterioration and is not eligible, unless shown to be exclusively disaster-related.

  4. Standards

    Bridge and road standards that have been formally adopted and are in practice, or adopted and placed in effect prior to the date of the disaster declaration, are eligible.  The standards must apply to work accomplished using all sources of funds, and not limited to work receiving State and/or Federal aid.  A copy of standards and council meeting minutes approving the standards should be maintained in the permanent applicant file.

  5. On-Systems Facilities

    Facilities funded by other Federal agencies, such as the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), are not eligible for permanent repair.  Debris removal and emergency measures are eligible on Federal-aid roads except where the Emergency Relief (ER) program of the FHWA is activated.  For further particulars, see the Public Assistance Guide, FEMA 286 (to be replaced by FEMA 322).

  6. Scheduled Replacement

    Facilities are not eligible if scheduled for replacement within the next 12 months using Federal funds.

Category D

Water Control Facilities

  1. Levees and Dams

    If the levee or dam meets the definition of a flood control work and thus falls within the authority of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) or Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), it is not eligible for permanent restoration.

  2. Drainage Channels

    The USACE or NRCS may be involved in some flood channels; in these cases, local drainage channels are not eligible.  Manmade channels must show evidence of routine maintenance and will be restored to pre-flood hydraulic capacity.  Appropriate documentation, including construction and maintenance records for the manmade channels should be placed in the permanent applicant file.  The documentation should include records demonstrating the predisaster condition of the channels.

  3. Natural Systems

    Debris removal from natural streams is not normally eligible for assistance.  Only debris that causes a threat to lives, public health and safety, or damage to improved property from a 5-year flood event, is eligible.  Work to protect improved property must have a favorable ratio of benefits to costs.  Any work in natural streams must also be closely reviewed and monitored to minimize undesirable environmental effects.

  4. Seeding and Sodding

    Seeding, grass, and sod will be eligible only when necessary to stabilize slopes and minimize sediment runoff. 

  5. Debris

    Disaster-caused debris in catch basins and channels is eligible for removal when the pre-existing condition can be established.

Category E

Buildings and Equipment

  1. Restoration

    Buildings are to be restored to pre-disaster design capacity in accordance with present codes and standards.

  2. Use and Occupancy

    The building must have been in active use prior to the disaster.  If only part of the building was occupied at the time of the disaster, or if the building was being used for a less demanding function than its original purpose, then replacement will be made at the reduced size, or restoration will be limited to that required to resume the immediate pre-disaster use.

  3. Extensive Damage

    If repairs to a facility would cost 50% or more of the cost of replacing the facility to its pre-disaster design, then the facility is eligible for replacement.  This is known as the “50% Rule,” and is discussed in detail in the Public Assistance Guide, FEMA 286 (to be replaced by FEMA 322).

  4. Insurance

    Check on insurance presently in force.  Insurance coverage pays first.  Uninsured losses are eligible.  If repair costs exceed $5,000, a general hazard insurance commitment will be required equal to the amount of damages.  Repair costs for flood damages occurring to buildings and/or contents within the 100-year flood zone will be reduced by the amount that would have been available from a standard NFIP flood policy whether or not the facility was actually insured.

  5. Equipment

    Office equipment and furniture should be replaced with used or surplus, if available.  Repair if feasible.

  6. Supplies

    Consumable supplies will be replaced to pre-disaster quantities.

  7. Vehicles

    Special equipment, such as two-way radios, is eligible.  Blue book prices should be used and salvage taken.  Check for comprehensive insurance.  If repair costs exceed $5,000, an insurance commitment will be required equal to the amount of damages.

  8. Grounds

    Grounds around buildings may be included with building structure if it is to be handled as a single project, except trees and other plantings, which are not eligible.

  9. Cleaning

    For buildings with light damage, cleaning and painting is eligible.

  10. Worship Facilities

    Buildings that are used primarily for worship or religious education purposes are not eligible.

Category F


  1. Electrical

    Restore to pre-disaster design in the most economical manner.  Extra pole structures are sometimes necessary to restore the function when erosion has destroyed stream banks and ground clearance has to be maintained over longer distances.

  2. Sewer
    Visual evidence of ground subsidence indicating infiltration into the pipe must be present.

    • Limited TV inspection is eligible when damage is apparent.  Use of TV inspection to search for problems is not eligible.

    • Cleaning of disaster-related debris from sewer lines is eligible only when necessary to restore adequate functioning of the system in specific reaches when the pre-existing condition can be established.

  3. Revenue

    Loss of revenue is not eligible.  Added costs or charges for providing regular utility services are not eligible.

Category G

Parks, Recreational, and Other

  1. Grass

    Grass, seeding, and sod are eligible only when necessary to stabilize slopes and minimize sediment runoff. 

  2. Trees

    Trees and other plantings are not eligible.

  3. Damage Estimates

    All structures and damage sites within a park may be included as a single project if repair or contract is being handled that way.  They can be claimed separately, if desired.

  4. Beaches

    To be eligible, a beach must have been improved to a designed profile and regularly maintained prior to the disaster.  Appropriate documentation should be placed in the permanent applicant file to show that the beaches were designed, constructed, and routinely maintained.  The documentation should include records showing when beach sand was last replaced and at what depths.  Permanent restoration of the sand on natural beaches is not eligible.  (Also see Emergency Protective Measures.)

Cost Eligibility

Force Account Cost

  1. Personnel

    Reimbursement of salaries and wages (including regular time, overtime, fringe benefits, and compensatory time) of employees will be paid on eligible disaster permanent work.  For emergency work, only overtime of regular employees plus all time of extra hires will be paid.

  2. Applicant-Owned Equipment

    Reimbursement for equipment used on eligible disaster-related work is based on the FEMA rate schedule or the applicant’s established rates, whichever is lower, unless the applicant’s rates are considerably lower and the applicant certifies that rates do not reflect actual costs.  A State schedule may be accepted for applicants who have established and used the schedule for normal operations before the disaster, up to $75 per hour.

  3. Materials

    Costs of materials and supplies used in eligible disaster-related work are eligible.

Contract Costs

Reasonable contract costs, including equipment rental, for eligible disaster-related work is eligible.

Administrative Costs

Subgrantee’s administrative allowance is based on the following percentages of net eligible costs.

  • First $100,000                3%

  • Next $900,000                2%

  • Next $4,000,000             1%

  • Over $5,000,000            ½%


  • Actual or anticipated insurance recoveries shall be deducted from otherwise eligible costs.

  • When insurance is required as a condition of approval for projects amounting to $5,000 or more, the State must provide FEMA with acceptable assurances that the applicant has obtained and will maintain insurance for the approved damaged facility or piece of equipment.

  • No assistance will be provided for any facility for which assistance was previously received unless the insurance was obtained and maintained as required.

Project Administration

Request for Public Assistance

The Request for Public Assistance form must be submitted by the applicant to the State within 30 days of designation of an area for each applicant requesting assistance.

Project Funding

Small Projects—Approved estimate is less than $47,800 ($47,800 is the threshold for small projects for Federal fiscal year 1999 and is adjusted annually)

Final payment of the Federal share may be made by the grantee upon approval of the project by FEMA.

Large Projects—Approved estimate of $47,800 or more

Payments will be made based upon State law, 44 CFR Part 13 and 31 CFR Part 205 and the approved State Administrative Plan.

Funding Options

Improved Project

If an applicant desires to make improvements to a damaged facility that exceeds restoring to pre-disaster design, State approval must be obtained.  FEMA funding for such improved projects shall be limited to the Federal estimate of the eligible disaster-related repairs.

Alternate Project

In any case where an applicant determines that the public welfare would not be best served by restoring a damaged facility or the function of that facility, the State may request on behalf of the applicant that FEMA approve an alternate project.  The alternate project option may be considered on permanent work only and funding will equal 90% of the Federal estimate of the eligible disaster-related repairs.

Use of Local Firms and Individuals

To assist in economical recovery of a disaster area, FEMA recommends that preference be given, to the extent practicable, to organizations, firms, and individuals who reside or do business primarily in the area affected by the disaster and who have appropriate contracting capability.  Local preference should be mentioned in the invitation for bids and requests for proposal.

Time Limits for Completion of Work

  • Debris removal               6 months

  • Emergency work            6 months

  • Permanent work           18 months


  • The State may impose lesser deadlines for completion of work

  • If requested by the applicant, the State may extend debris clearance and emergency work deadlines for an additional 6 months and permanent work deadlines for an additional 30 months if the reason for the request is based on extenuating circumstances or unusual project requirements beyond the control of the applicant.

  • Requests for extensions beyond the deadlines listed above may be submitted by the State to FEMA's Disaster Recovery Manager (DRM).  The DRM has authority to grant extensions appropriate to the situation. The DRM may impose requirements upon the State to ensure that the project will be completed within the approved time limit.

Cost Overruns

  • The State will evaluate subgrantee appeals for cost overruns and, when justified, submit the request to FEMA for final determination.  All requests must contain sufficient documentation to support eligibility of all work and costs claimed.

  • For small projects (less than $47,800) overruns, the applicant’s appeal must include documentation for the actual cost of all small projects to show that the net overrun is significant before approval will be considered.


  • All disaster costs must be supported by documentation, including timesheets for personnel, equipment use records, invoices for materials, and all contracted documents related to work accomplished by contract.

Appendix B

Applicant Eligibility Chart

Eligible ApplicantsState AgenciesState Emergency Management Agency, State Department of Transportation
 Local GovernmentsCity, County, or Town
 Native American Tribes 
 Alaskan Native Villages/OrganizationsExcludes corporations that are privately owned
 Certain Private Non-Profit Organizations (PNPs)
  • Medical
  • Emergency (fire and rescue)
  • Utility
  • Educational
  • Custodial care
  • Facilities that provide essential services of a governmental nature to the general public
  • Museums
  • Zoos
  • Community centers
  • Libraries
  • Homeless shelters
  • Senior citizen centers
  • Rehabilitation facilities
  • Shelter workshops
  • Facilities that provide essential health and safety services of a governmental nature, such as:
  • Low income housing
  • Alcohol and drug rehabilitation
  • Programs for battered persons
  • Transportation to medical facilities
  • Food programs
Ineligible PNP ApplicantsRecreational facilities 
 Job counseling/training facilities 
 Certain advocacy groupsGroups not directly providing health services
 Conference facilities 
 Performing arts facilities 

How Much Is Eligible?

ItemEligibility for Reimbursement
Emergency Public Transportation
  • Emergency public transportation costs are eligible, provided that public transportation is not the responsibility of another Federal agency (e.g., Federal Highway Administration) and is in accordance with Section 419 of the Stafford Act.  Due to the large outlay this could represent, all emergency transportation projects must be pre-approved by the FEMA Public Assistance Officer.
  • When FEMA does reimburse for emergency public transportation, the cost of capital construction projects to meet emergency needs will be reimbursed only for the emergency period to be defined by FEMA on a project-by-project basis.
  • The amount reimbursed will be determined based on a depreciation recovery rate.
Employee Hourly RateFEMA will reimburse a reasonable hourly rate based on the type of work performed.  For instance, if a subgrantee’s employee is a janitor and the employee performed disaster-related clean-up work, then that employee’s full hourly rate as a janitor will be reimbursable.  However, if a doctor performs the same disaster-related clean-up work, then their hourly rate will be adjusted downward to reflect the typical cost to perform the clean-up function (i.e., that paid to the janitor).
Permanent Restoration
  • Restoration must be direct result of the declared event.
  • Restoration must have been performed within designated area.
  • Restoration must be the legal responsibility of the applicant.
  • Restored facility must be in active use.
  • Restoration must not fall under the responsibility of any Other Federal Agencies (OFA).
  • Salvage value or insurance proceeds must be deducted

What Cost is Eligible?

Cost TypeNature of CostDetails
LaborPermanent labor
  • Regular time and overtime labor costs are eligible for permanent restoration work.
  • Only overtime labor costs are eligible for emergency work.
  • An organization’s pre-disaster policy on overtime will determine whether or not the organization is reimbursed for overtime work performed by salaried employees.
  • For emergency work, only overtime costs are eligible; regular time labor costs are not eligible for reimbursement.
  • Fringe benefits associated with disaster-related labor costs are eligible.
 Temporary labor
  • Regular and overtime labor costs for temporary staff hired specifically to perform disaster-related work is eligible for reimbursement.
  • Fringe benefits for temporary labor may vary from permanent labor and will be dependent upon an organization’s pre-disaster labor policy
 Part-time labor
  • Excess regular and overtime costs for part-time employees (only for hours worked over their normal work schedule), are eligible for reimbursement.
  • Fringe benefits associated with disaster-related costs are eligible.
  • Benefits for part-time labor may vary from permanent labor and will be dependent upon an organization’s pre-disaster labor policy
 Volunteer labor
  • Organizations that use volunteer labor to perform eligible work receive credit for that labor to help them meet the non-Federal portion of the cost share.
  • Volunteer labor will be valued at the prevailing rate for the work being performed
 Contract labor
  • Contract labor to perform disaster-related work is eligible for reimbursement.
  • Generally, contracts must be competitively bid; an applicant must follow the same policies and procedures it uses for procurements that are non-Federal in nature.
  • Exceptions (with written justification) include instances where emergency work must be completed immediately to reduce the threat to life, public health or safety, or where there exists only a single contract source to complete the work.
  • Additionally, for a contract with both emergency and non-emergency work, only the part that relates to the emergency work may be the exception.
  • The cost of the rented/leased equipment is eligible, along with normal equipment operating expenses, such as fuel and supplies.
  • Maintenance costs are the responsibility of the lessor, unless otherwise stated in the lease agreement.
  • The organization should follow its established business practices when renting equipment
 Applicant-ownedOrganizations using their own equipment in the response and recovery effort will be reimbursed based on either the FEMA equipment rates or the organization’s (pre-disaster) internally-developed equipment usage rate, whichever is lower.  Only the time the equipment is actually in use is eligible.  Therefore, the equipment usage must correspond to labor hours claimed for performing eligible work.
 PurchasedEquipment purchased to perform disaster-related work will be reimbursed using FEMA equipment rates based on usage.  Depending on the cost of the equipment, the eligible usage cost may have salvage value deducted.
Materials and SuppliesInventoryOrganizations using an existing inventory of materials and supplies to assist in the response and recovery effort will be reimbursed for the reasonable cost of replenishing the inventory to the pre-disaster level.
 PurchasedPurchased materials and supplies will be reimbursed for the purchase prices if the organization complies with its pre-disaster procurement regulations and practices

How Much Is Eligible?

ItemEligibility for Reimbursement
Emergency Public Transportation
  • Emergency public transportation costs are eligible, provided that public transportation is not the responsibility of another Federal agency (e.g., Federal Highway Administration) and is in accordance with Section 419 of the Stafford Act.  Due to the large outlay this could represent, all emergency transportation projects must be pre-approved by the FEMA Public Assistance Officer.
  • When FEMA does reimburse for emergency public transportation, the cost of capital construction projects to meet emergency needs will be reimbursed only for the emergency period to be defined by FEMA on a project-by-project basis.
  • The amount reimbursed will be determined based on a depreciation recovery rate.
Employee Hourly RateFEMA will reimburse a reasonable hourly rate based on the type of work performed.  For instance, if a subgrantee’s employee is a janitor and the employee performed disaster-related clean-up work, then that employee’s full hourly rate as a janitor will be reimbursable.  However, if a doctor performs the same disaster-related clean-up work, then their hourly rate will be adjusted downward to reflect the typical cost to perform the clean-up function (i.e., that paid to the janitor).
Building Habitability Safety InspectionsThe cost of an initial safety inspection performed to determine the habitability of a structure may be eligible for reimbursement.  This will be a disaster-specific determination.
Building Inspection and Permit Processing Costs Directly Related to Waived Building Permit FeesWhen a local government authority waives building permit fees, they may incur a loss of revenue.  FEMA does not reimburse for loss of revenue.  The existing fee schedule should provide the necessary revenue to support the building permit process.
Mutual Aid Agreements
  • Mutual aid agreements usually contain reimbursement provisions for labor, fringe benefits, lodging, meals, travel expenses, equipment, and materials.  FEMA will generally reimburse reasonable costs associated with mutual aid policies that were established before the disaster.
  • If a subgrantee enters into a mutual aid agreement after the disaster occurs, it may affect the amount of funding eligible from FEMA
Post-Disaster Overtime Costs
  • FEMA will reimburse eligible costs that are in accordance with the 44 CFR and OMB Circulars and the subgrantee’s pre-disaster policies.
  • If the subgrantee’s pre-disaster policy does not pay employees for overtime, FEMA will not reimburse the cost of overtime.  If a pre-disaster local or State provision exists to pay overtime during emergency situations, FEMA will reimburse the cost of overtime.
Contract Labor for Emergency Work (as opposed to using permanent employees)Contract labor for emergency work is eligible.  However, if the work performed is essentially identical to the organization’s normal work functions, then permanent employee labor should be used and any temporary labor needed can be hired with full reimbursement for regular and overtime costs.
Project ManagementActual costs associated with the management of a FEMA project are reimbursable.
Indirect CostsNo indirect costs are eligible for reimbursement.
Computer System/Software for Tracking Disaster-Related CostsA computer system or new software is considered an administrative cost incurred to administer Federal disaster assistance.  Therefore, such costs are reimbursed by the Statutory Administrative Allowance and are not eligible for reimbursement.
Temporary Relocation
  • Only those applicants who provide essential community services are eligible for relocation costs.
  • Essential community services are those that are necessary to save lives and/or to protect and preserve property or public health and safety.  They include:
  • Medical facilities including hospitals, outpatient facility, rehabilitation facility or facility for long-term care as defined by Section 645 of the Public Health Service Act.
  • Custodial care facility providing institutional care for persons requiring close supervision and some physical constraints on their daily activities.
  • Emergency facilities including fire departments, police departments, search and rescue teams, and ambulances
  • Utility facilities for generation, transmission, distribution and maintenance of electric power, telephone, sewer and water, and gas
  • Homeless shelters.
  • Facilities that provide essential health and safety services of a governmental nature, such as:
  • Low-income housing
  • Alcohol and drug rehabilitation
  • Refuge for battered persons
  • Food programs
  • It is important to note that there are some facilities that provide essential services of a governmental nature and are open to the general public but are not an essential community service.  These include:
  • Museums
  • Zoos
  • Community centers
  • Libraries (other than school libraries)
  • Senior citizen centers
  • Rehabilitation facilities
  • Shelter workshops
  • FEMA pays for temporary relocation of an essential community service until the applicant’s facility is habitable again.  Due to the essential service provided by the applicant, it is expected that the repair or reconstruction of the permanent facility will be expedited.  Should this not be the case, FEMA will re-examine the temporary relocation period.
Examples of activities not eligible for reimbursement
  • Property tax re-assessments
  • Disaster applicant centers (DACs)
  • Housing programs
  • Consumer task forces

Appendix C

Frequently Asked Eligibility Questions Do all contracts have to be competitively bid?

All contract procurement should be conducted in a manner providing full and open competition in compliance with State and local procurement regulations.   Contracts will normally be competitively bid unless one of the following instances apply:

The item is available only from a single source;

The awarding agency authorizes noncompetitive proposals;

After solicitation of a number of sources, competition is determined inadequate; or

The contract will eliminate or reduce an immediate threat to life, public health or safety.

Does the time period in which work is performed affect the reimbursement of that work?

The initial deadlines are established according to the type of work performed.

Debris removal—6 months

Emergency protective measures—6 months

Permanent repair work—18 months

Time extensions may be granted for extenuating circumstances.  For debris removal and emergency work, an additional 6 months may be granted by the State.  For permanent restoration work, an additional 30 months may be granted by the State.

Requests for extensions beyond the deadlines listed above may be submitted by the State to the DRM.  The DRM has authority to grant extensions appropriate to the situation. The DRM may impose requirements upon the State to ensure that the project will be completed within the approved time limit.

You will only be reimbursed for those costs incurred up to the latest approved completion date for a particular project.  The project must be completed for you to retain any money already funded.

What costs are covered by the Statutory Administrative Allowance?

The Statutory Administrative Allowance is provided to lessen the financial impact of administering the disaster recovery effort, including preparation of the Project Worksheet, related field inspections, project applications, final inspection reports and final audits.  Necessary costs of requesting, obtaining and administering Federal disaster assistance are covered by this allowance.  No other administrative costs are eligible.  Good fiscal management and record keeping are essential to controlling the indirect costs associated with FEMA-reimbursed projects.

After the disaster, USDA established an emergency food stamp program.  However, USDA only reimbursed 50% of the total operational cost.  May we submit the other 50% to FEMA for reimbursement?

No.  One Federal agency may not reimburse another Federal agency’s non-Federal cost share.

A disaster has just occurred.  Why does FEMA still get involved in environmental or historical issues?

FEMA's PA Program is a Federal grant program.  As a result, the actions that FEMA funds are required by law to demonstrate compliance with applicable Federal laws and regulations including those enacting environmental and historic legislation—even after a disaster declaration.  We are not addressing the environmental impacts caused by nature, but those caused by Federal actions responding to the disaster.  Some of these laws have exemptions, waivers or expedited consultations for certain types of work.  FEMA will apply these to projects where appropriate.  FEMA and the State have also established procedures to expedite compliance of those projects that do not fall under the previously mentioned exceptions.  In addition, there are trained FEMA and State specialists on staff to address these issues in an expeditious manner.

If my project gets its environmental clearance from FEMA and is subsequently funded, do I still need to get a local, State or Federal permit to complete my project?

Generally, yes, unless the local, State or Federal regulations have permit exemptions to the work proposed.  Remember that FEMA's environmental clearance applies to the construction of the project because of the Federal funding action.  FEMA and the State will require as a condition of funding that all applicable permits are obtained.  Prior to a disaster occurring or initiating construction, it is recommended that the regulatory agencies be contacted about any exemptions and expedited permit processes that may be applicable.  Work completion in violation of the law runs the risk of losing its Federal grant funding from FEMA.

Appendix D

Glossary of Terms


A State agency, local government, or eligible Private Non-Profit organization who submits a request to the Grantee for disaster assistance under the State’s grant.

Applicant Liaison (Liaison)

A State customer service representative responsible for providing applicants with State specific information and documentation requirements.  The Liaison works closely with the Public Assistance Coordinator to provide any assistance the applicant may require.

Case ManagementFile

A centralized data bank of all applicant activities.  Data entered into this bank creates a chronological history of everything that has taken place with an applicant from the time they apply for assistance until they have received all monies and their file has been closed.

Cost Estimating Format (CEF)

A forward pricing methodology for estimating the total cost of repair for large permanent projects by use of construction industry standards.  The format uses a base cost estimate and design and construction contingency factors, applied as a percentage of the base cost.


The President’s decision that a major disaster qualifies for Federal assistance under the Stafford Act.

Emergency Work

That work which must be done immediately to save lives and to protect improved property, public health and safety, or to avert or lessen the threat of a major disaster.  Emergency work frequently includes clearance and removal of debris and temporary restoration of essential public facilities and services. (Category A-B)


Any publicly or privately owned building, works, system, or equipment, built or manufactured, or an improved and maintained natural feature.  Land used for agricultural purposes is not a facility.

Force Account

An applicant’s own labor forces and equipment.

Hazard Mitigation

Any cost-effective measure that will reduce the potential for damage to a facility from a disaster event.

Immediate Needs Funding (INF)

An advance of grant funds to assist with payment of emergency work within the first 60 days after a disaster strikes.  The amount of funding is normally 50% of the Federal share of emergency costs as identified during the preliminary damage assessment.

Improved Property

A structure, facility, or item of equipment that was built, constructed, or manufactured.  Land used for agricultural purposes is not improved property.

Kickoff Meeting

The initial meeting between an applicant, the Applicant Liaison, and the Public Assistance Coordinator.  At this working session, the applicant provides a list of damages and receives comprehensive information about the Public Assistance Program and detailed guidance for their specific circumstances.

Large Project

Eligible project, either emergency or permanent work, with a damage dollar value of $47,800 or greater (FY99).

Permanent Work

That work that must be performed through repairs or replacement to restore an eligible facility on the basis of its pre-disaster design, use, and current applicable standards. (Category C-G)

Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA)

A survey to determine the impact and magnitude of damage caused by the disaster and the resulting unmet needs of the public sector and community at large.  The PDA is the basis for estimating total disaster-related damage and evaluating the need to request a Presidential declaration of disaster.


A logical method of performing work required as a result of the declared event.

Project Formulation

The process of documenting the eligible facility, the eligible work and the eligible cost for damages resulting from the declared event.

Project Worksheet (PW)

Form used to document the damage and develop the scope of work for a project.

Project Officer (PO)

An emergency management employee with demonstrated experience and training in management of large and complex repair projects.

Private Non-Profit Organization (PNP)

Any non-governmental agency or entity that currently has either an effective ruling letter from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service granting tax exemption or satisfactory evidence from the State that the non-revenue producing organization or entity is a nonprofit one organized or operating under State law.

Public Assistance (PA)

Supplementary Federal assistance provided under the Stafford Act to State and local governments or certain Private Non-Profit organizations other than assistance for the direct benefit of individuals and families.

Public Assistance Coordinator (PAC)

A FEMA customer service representative responsible for providing continuity of service to an applicant in the recovery process of the Public Assistance program.

Public Assistance Officer (PAO)

A Federal official specifically responsible for the Public Assistance (PA) Program during disaster operations.  Typically, a State PAO is also designated with similar responsibilities within the State organization.

Request for Public Assistance (Request)

The official notification of intent to apply for public assistance monies following declaration of a disaster.  It is a short form that asks for general identifying information about an applicant.

Small Project

Eligible project, either emergency or permanent work, with a damage dollar value of less than $47,800 (FY99).

Special Considerations

Factors that must be addressed before Federal grant money can be obligated to repair or restore damaged facilities.  These factors include, but are not limited to, general and flood insurance, historic preservation, environmental protection, and hazard mitigation.


The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, Public Law 93-288, as amended.


An emergency management employee with demonstrated technical or program expertise in a defined specialty.


A pre-funding verification to confirm the eligibility, compliance, accuracy, and reasonableness of small projects formulated by an applicant.

Last Updated: 
02/13/2015 - 09:25