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Rethinking FEMA’s Public Assistance Programs for Communities Affected by Disaster

Several blog posts have talked about how the federal assistance process often works in various disasters. When the President authorizes a disaster declaration, he authorizes a variety of response and recovery programs; and one of those programs is our public assistance program.

The public assistance program provides grants to states who provide funds to applicants from state, local, tribal and territorial governments and certain private, nonprofit organizations for emergency work (such as debris removal or sheltering) and repair and replacement work, such as repairing damaged schools, fire stations, and other work, allowing their communities to quickly respond to and recover from major disasters and emergencies.

Since the program began, we have assisted countless communities across the country during their recovery, and allocated an average of $3.3 billion in public assistance funding annually. (Find additional facts and statistics about the PA program).

We have a challenge in providing financial assistance to disaster-affected communities quickly, while also ensuring proper fiscal accountability, and we have heard from numerous stakeholders that these processes can be difficult to understand, so we are seeking ways to improve our processes.

So here’s what we’re looking for: if you’ve been involved with our public assistance program, at any level, we’re asking for your feedback on streamlining and changing the program to ensure quick delivery of assistance, more options for community recovery, and fiscal accountability.

We’re calling this a “bottom-up” review, and we’re looking for ways to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the PA program with input from our stakeholders. We have consulted our partners from the National Advisory Council and the National Emergency Management Association, as well as other stakeholder groups to ensure this review is open and transparent, to reflect the valuable input from those we serve.

To give an overview of the bottom-up review, it’s being conducted in four phases, and we’re currently in phase one:

Phase I – Stakeholder Engagement (current phase)
FEMA will engage external stakeholders through FEMA’s website by soliciting direct feedback on proposed program concepts, and interaction with the National Advisory Council and Regional Advisory Councils, States, Tribes, national associations, and local stakeholders.

Phase II – Feedback Analysis & Program Option Development
Based on the input received, we will develop proposed programmatic options for consideration by FEMA leadership and stakeholders.

Phase III – Vetting and Validation of Concepts
We will provide stakeholders an opportunity to review and provide feedback on the proposed programmatic options.

Phase IV – Feedback Analysis & Development of Final Option(s)
After evaluating and incorporating changes based on feedback, FEMA senior leadership will review programmatic option(s) and decide on a course of action.

We have posted an issue paper that can help guide you in formulating feedback. For additional information visit

If you are interested in submitting feedback, suggestions or new ideas, email us at by May 31, 2011.

Last Updated: 
06/21/2012 - 16:43

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