Public Assistance-How It Works

Main Content
Release date: 
April 6, 2001
Release Number: 

Olympia, WA -- Estimates to repair or restore damages caused by the Nisqually Earthquake to public entities will top $200 million. Initially more than 600 public buildings along with certain bridges and roads have been identified as possible candidates for Public Assistance. As of this date some 200 Requests for Public Assistance have been submitted.

The Public Assistance (PA) program provides supplemental federal disaster grant assistance for the repair, replacement, or restoration of disaster-damaged, publicly owned facilities and those of certain private non-profit organizations. The federal share of assistance is 75 percent of the eligible cost for emergency measures and permanent restoration. The State determines how the non-federal share (25 percent) is split with the applicants.

"Public Assistance addresses public needs," stated Bill Lokey, federal coordinating officer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). "Things like roads, schools, local governments and their various facilities that people depend on to help them keep their lives going."

PA's redesigned and streamlined program, implemented in 1998, emphasizes a better, more personal customer service, improved communications, reallocated responsibilities, more efficient and consistent program delivery and a faster, simpler system of obtaining funding.

To be eligible for PA, work must be required as a result of the disaster, be located within a designated disaster area and be the legal responsibility of the eligible applicant. It can be classified as either emergency or permanent work.

Debris removal and implementation of emergency protective measures are classified as emergency work. They are performed to eliminate or reduce immediate threats to the public during or immediately following a disaster. Permanent work involves restoring infrastructure to its pre-disaster design. This could range from minor repairs to total replacement. In either case, retrofitting or mitigating against future damage might be included in the work.

Once work has been identified, the responsible applicant must file a Request for Public Assistance, usually within 30 days following the designation of the area affected. A Public Assistance team of coordinators from both federal and state is then assigned. The team holds a Kickoff meeting with the applicant to discuss the damage and "scope of work." They work with the applicant throughout the completion of the project.

Projects are classified according to the estimated cost. Small projects are those with an estimated cost of less than $50,600. Small projects submitted within 30 days, may be eligible for incentives that could speed up the funding and completion process. Applicants have up to 60 days from the Kickoff meeting to submit the Scope of Work.

The Public Assistance Program encourages protection from future damage by providing assistance for hazard mitigation measures during the recovery period. "FEMA is committed to ensuring eligible applicants receive all the assistance available under the law," said Bill Lokey.

"With FEMA's help our state is striving for a long-term fix and rebuilding more earthquake resistant communities with mitigation," added Diane Offord, state coordinating officer.

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
State/Tribal Government or Region: 
Related Disaster: 
Back to Top