- About the Public Assistance Program
- Eligible Applicants
- Eligible Costs
- Eligible Facilities (Projects)
- Eligible Work
- Alternate Projects
- Improved Projects
The FEMA Public Assistance Grant Program is based on statutes, regulations and policies. The statute, the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act), is the underlying document that authorizes the program. Regulations published in Title 44 of the Code of Federal Regulations (44 CFR) Part 206 implement and interpret the statute. Policies are written to apply the statute and regulations to specific situations. These documents govern the eligibility criteria through which FEMA provides funds for Public Assistance. These criteria have the following four components: Eligible Applicants, Eligible Costs, Eligible Facilities, and Eligible Work. Alternate and improved projects may be applied for under certain criteria, as explained below.
The applicant is the basis for eligibility. The applicant must be eligible for the facility to be eligible. The facility must be eligible for the work to be eligible. The work must be eligible for the cost to be eligible. Using these guidelines, FEMA determines whether the various components are eligible for disaster assistance. Additional information on the FEMA Public Assistance Grant Program may be found in the publication FEMA 321, Public Assistance Policy Digest.
Four types of entities are eligible applicants for Public Assistance. If an entity meets the requirements of one of the types, the applicant may apply for FEMA disaster assistance.
The types of eligible applicants are:
1. State government agencies, such as:
- Departments of transportation
- Environmental resources agencies
- State parks agencies
- Water quality commissions
2. Local governments, including:
- Towns, cities, parishes
- Municipalities, townships
- Local public authorities
- Government councils
- Regional and interstate government entities
- Agencies or instrumentalities of local governments
- Special districts or regional authorities organized under state law
- Rural or unincorporated communities represented by the state or apolitical subdivision of the state
- School districts
3. Private nonprofit organizations or institutions that own or operate facilities that are open to the public and that provide certain services otherwise performed by a government agency. Eligible facilities are limited to:
- Custodial care
- Irrigation organizations
- Other essential governmental services not falling into one of the categories described above, including community centers, homeless shelters, libraries, museums, rehabilitation centers, senior citizen centers, shelter workshops, zoos, and health and safety service facilities
4. Federally recognized Indian tribes or authorized tribal organizations and Alaskan Native village organizations. This does not include Alaska Native Corporations, which are owned by private individuals.
All eligible applicants, except Indian tribal governments that have been designated as grantees, must submit their requests for assistance through the state.
Not all costs incurred by an eligible applicant are eligible for Public Assistance funding. Eligible costs are costs that:
- Are reasonable and necessary to accomplish the eligible work
- Comply with federal, state, and local requirements for procurement
- Do not include (or are reduced by) insurance proceeds, salvage values, and other credits
The eligible cost criteria apply to all direct costs, including salaries, wages, fringe benefits, materials, equipment, and contracts awarded for eligible work. In addition to these direct costs, an applicant will receive an administrative allowance.
Projects eligible for Public Assistance funding include facilities for transportation, water control, utilities, and recreation, and are listed below by the categories defined by FEMA.
- Category A: Removal of debris, including clearance of trees, woody debris, and building wreckage; sand, mud, silt, and gravel; and other disaster-related material on public property.
- Category B: Measures taken before, during, and after a disaster to save lives and protect public health and safety.
- Category C: Roads, bridges, and associated features, such as shoulders, ditches, culverts, lighting and signs.
- Category D: Water control facilities, including drainage channels, pumping facilities, and the emergency repair of levees. Permanent repair of flood control works is the responsibility of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
- Category E: Buildings including their contents and systems.
- Category F: Utility distribution systems, such as water treatment and delivery systems, power generation facilities and distribution lines, and sewage collection and treatment facilities.
- Category G: Public parks, recreational facilities and other facilities, including playgrounds, swimming pools and cemeteries.
In general, eligible work is based on the following minimum criteria:
- It must be required as a direct result of the declared event
- It must be within the designated disaster area
- It must be the legal responsibility of an eligible applicant at the time of the disaster
There are two types of work eligible for the Public Assistance Grant Program. These types of work are:
- Emergency work (Categories A and B)
- Permanent work (Categories C through G)
Occasionally an applicant may determine that the public welfare would not be best served by restoring a damaged facility or its function to the pre-disaster design. This usually occurs when the service provided by the facility is no longer needed, although the facility was still in use at the time of the disaster. Under these circumstances, the applicant may apply to FEMA to use the eligible funds for an alternate project.
Possible alternate projects include:
- Repair or expansion of other public facilities
- Construction of new public facilities
- Purchase of capital equipment
- Funding of hazard mitigation measures in the area affected by the disaster
The alternate project option may be proposed for both small and large projects, but only for permanent restoration projects located within the declared disaster area. All requests for alternate projects must be made within 12 months of the kickoff meeting and approved by FEMA prior to construction. However, due to the extent of disaster related damage in Greater New Orleans, many deadlines have been extended.
Alternate projects are eligible for 75 percent of the approved federal share of the estimated eligible costs associated with repairing the damaged facility to its pre-disaster design, or the actual costs of completing the alternate project, whichever is less. The share of the costs may be increased to 90 percent for publicly owned facilities where unstable soils are present at the site of the damaged facility. This exception does not apply to private nonprofit facilities.
The proposed alternate project must not be located in the regulatory floodway and will have to be insured if located in the 100-year floodplain. Public Assistance funding may not be used for operating costs or to meet the state or local share requirement on other Public Assistance projects or projects that use other federal grants. Hazard Mitigation funds cannot be applied to an alternate project (Hazard Mitigation, Stafford Act Section 406). An environmental assessment is normally performed for alternate projects. For alternate projects in Greater New Orleans, Alternative Arrangements will be used and applicants must meet all Alternative Arrangement requirements. Environmental/Historic Preservation review must be completed prior to approval of alternate projects by the grantee.
Applicants performing restoration work on a damaged facility may use the opportunity to make additional improvements while restoring the facility to its pre-disaster design. 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. Projects that incorporate such improvements are called improved projects. For the most part, these are projects in which it is hard to differentiate between the funding for approved work the improved project because of physical changes or contracting arrangements.
An improved project may be requested for both small and large projects, but must be approved by the grantee prior to construction. Any project that results in a significant change from the pre-disaster configuration (that is, different location, footprint, function, or size) must be reviewed by FEMA's Environmental and Historic Preservation process prior to initiation of any construction or deconstruction activity. Environmental/Historic Preservation review must be completed prior to approval of improved projects by the grantee.
Federal funding for improved projects is limited to the federal share of the estimated costs and to the time limits that would be associated with repairing the damaged facility to its pre-disaster design. Funds to construct the improved project can be combined with a grant from another federal agency; however, federal grants cannot be used to meet the grantee or local cost-share requirement.
If the original facility is being repaired and improvements are being added, Section 406 Hazard Mitigation funding may be applied to the original facility. If the improved project involves a new facility on the same site or on a different site, Hazard Mitigation funding will not be applied to that project.