The Quiet Form of Disaster Assistance: Public Assistance Grants, Paving the Road to Recovery

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Release date: 
July 14, 2006
Release Number: 

When a disaster strikes, the initial reaction is typically to address personal and family safety issues first. In the aftermath of a disaster, local, state and federal along with voluntary organizations have a variety of programs at their disposal to help individuals recover. These programs help one person at a time. However, disasters also impact the community as a whole, damaging public facilities and increasing the workload of local governments.

Taking a lead role in helping communities recover is FEMA’s Public Assistance (PA) Grant Program. The PA Program is only activated following a presidential disaster declaration and provides supplemental federal disaster grant assistance to applicants including state agencies, local governments, and certain non-profit organizations.

Funding may be provided for the repair, replacement, or restoration of disaster-damaged facilities that are the responsibility of the applicant, as well as costs incurred for disaster cleanup or emergency actions taken to protect lives or property. The federal share of recovery costs is at least 75 percent. The remaining share is the responsibility of the state and local government or non-profit organization.

The process of obtaining PA is straight forward, and FEMA PA specialists are always available to assist the applicant along the way:

1. The local entity completes FEMA's Request for Public Assistance (RPA) application. This form starts the grant process and opens a case management file, which contains general claim information in addition to records of meetings, conversations, phone messages and any special issues or concerns that may affect the funding. The RPA is usually submitted at an applicant briefing, a meeting coordinated by the state where the disaster assistance process is explained to local officials.

2. A Public Assistance Coordinator (PAC) works with the applicant through funding approval. Public Assistance Coordinators (PAC)s from both FEMA and the state are assigned to work with applicants. The state PAC is responsible for providing the applicant with specific information on state regulations, documentation and reporting requirements, and assists the applicant through completion of the project. The PACs will then hold a kickoff meeting with the applicant to review damages, assess needs and put in place a plan of action to deliver assistance.

3. The project is formulated. Project formulation is the process of documenting eligible facilities, the eligible work and the eligible cost of repairing/replacing the identified damages. Repair projects are divided into small and large projects. A small project is any eligible work with an estimated cost under $57,500 with funding based on the usual federal share of 75 percent. Large projects, on the other hand, are projects with damage costs of $57,500 or more. These projects will be formulated as a team effort with FEMA, state and local representatives as partners. Funding for large projects is based on actual costs to complete the eligible scope of work.

4. Project review and validation. The purpose of validation is to confirm the eligibility, compliance, accuracy, and reasonableness of small projects formulated by an applicant, and to ensure that the applicant receives the maximum amount of assistance available under the law.

5.The local jurisdiction moves ahead with its project. FEMA will provide reimbursement through the state based on the appropriate cost share. Following completion of each large project, there is a review to see if the project cost differs from the estimate.

The PA Program may only provide assistance for projects that are located in a disaster-declared area and are the legal responsibility of an eligible applicant. The program cannot provide assistance for projects that are under the jurisdiction of other federal agencies, such as roads and bridges that are a part of the federal hig...

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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