KANSAS CITY, MO. -- The process for seeking funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is well established according to federal regulations, but there are some new wrinkles as FEMA looks at reducing costs while expediting much-needed recovery dollars to local communities.
When a disaster strikes and an area is declared for FEMA's Public Assistance, affected agencies submit Requests for Public Assistance through Missouri's State Emergency Management Agency, or SEMA. This one-page form allows FEMA program personnel to meet with applicants to develop projects to repair disaster-damaged public facilities such as roads, buildings, parks and utilities.
Project formulation identifies eligible work on eligible facilities and estimates the cost of repairing or replacing the identified damages. This information goes into a case file known as a Project Worksheet.
Projects are divided into small and large projects according the limits specified in the fiscal year the disaster is declared. For the Sept. 21 disaster declared for Dade, Dallas, Greene, Laclede, Lawrence, Polk and Webster counties, small projects are those under $59,700.
The major difference between small projects and large projects is the way they are funded. In a small project, the federal cost share (75 percent for eligible work) is paid upon project approval and funding is based on an initial cost estimate.
In a large project, the federal cost share is paid as work is accomplished and final assistance is based upon actual costs or on an estimate using a Cost Estimating Format. Using this pay-as-you-go technique, money moves out to local agencies as they need it to make progress payments to contractors.
he Pilot Program adds another option for applicants that is particularly useful in a large disaster and provides incentives for communities to develop a recycling plan. Pilot procedures are applicable to debris removal and to repair, restoration or replacement of damaged facilities.
Participation in the program is voluntary. The affected state determines whether it wants to use the program and the program limits, but applicants can decide for themselves if they want to participate. They may also use the Pilot Program for some projects, but not others.
There are four principal elements to the Pilot Program:
- Grants can be provided on the basis of estimates.
- The federal cost-share of 75 percent can be increased to 80 percent to those agencies having a FEMA-approved debris management plan and at least two pre-qualified debris and wreckage removal contractors identified prior to a disaster.
- Applicants may retain any revenue from the sale of disaster debris for recycling.
- Regular time salaries can be reimbursed as well as overtime salaries for debris-related activities. Under the regular PA program, regular salaries are not allowed for reimbursement.
According to FEMA program managers, the debris management plan does not have to be complicated and can be a one-page document that details how an agency will handle any debris caused from a disaster. The plan is flexible and can be modified if conditions require.
Workshops are available for public agency personnel interested in creating a debris management plan. For information, contact the State Emergency Management Agency.
In all small projects, FEMA recognizes that some estimates may fall below actual costs and some are above actual costs. FEMA and the state combine all of an agency's disaster small project worksheets in determining the final cost share to be paid.
FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natur...