Hurricanes and other natural disasters threaten more than homes. They damage or destroy bridges, highways, public buildings, parks and water treatment plants, and leave tons of debris. Communications and emergency services are also disrupted.
In addition to the many assistance programs available to help individuals recover from the impacts of hurricanes, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers help to local, county and state agencies. Some private non-profit organizations that suffered damage also are eligible for aid. FEMA’s funding program for these agencies is called “Public Assistance.”
The kinds of damage for which FEMA’s Public Assistance program can help include debris removal, emergency protective measures, road systems and bridges, water control facilities, public buildings and contents, public utilities, parks, and recreational facilities.
Federal, state and local teams inspect disaster-related damage, examine expenses identified by the state or local representatives and prepare reports which outline the scope of repair work needed and the estimated restoration or replacement cost.
Private non-profit organizations may qualify for assistance to restore certain types of facilities, including educational, utility, emergency, medical, custodial care and other facilities that provide essential government types of services.
"Applicant Briefings" were recently conducted to inform agency officials about assistance available and how to apply for it. Many agencies have filed their "Request for Public Assistance" with the state. FEMA and state teams will soon meet with potential applicants individually in "Kickoff Meetings," where damages are discussed, needs assessed and a plan of action put in place.
For insurable structures within special flood hazard areas (SFHA), primarily buildings, assistance from FEMA is reduced by the amount of insurance settlement that could have been obtained under a standard National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policy. For structures located outside of a SFHA, FEMA will reduce the amount of eligible assistance by any available insurance proceeds.
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.