The Other Disaster Assistance

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Release date: 
June 9, 2008
Release Number: 

CLINTON, Miss. -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency's Public Assistance program helps communities recover following a disaster by reimbursing governments and non-profit organizations for a percentage of costs for such things as emergency protective measures, debris removal or rebuilding and repairing infrastructure.

The Public Assistance program (PA) affects an entire community because it helps with the recovery of damaged public infrastructure such as roads, bridges and public buildings following a disaster. The program also assists selected non-profit organizations.

The PA program can assist local and state governments with the costs incurred from debris removal, implementing emergency protective measures and the permanent restoration of public infrastructure.

"The public assistance program lessens the negative effect of a disaster to not only those who were in harm's way, but the entire community as well," said FEMA's Federal Coordinating Officer Michael L. Parker.

The President, in his May 28, 2008 disaster declaration for Hinds County following the severe storms and tornadoes on April 4, included funding on a cost-sharing basis for state, eligible local governments and private nonprofit organizations to repair or replace facilities damaged by the storms.

"In general, the PA program may apply when a disaster creates massive quantities of debris on public streets or create dangerous building wreckage," said MEMA Director Mike Womack. "Local and state governments bear the responsibility of responding to and recovering from such devastating events, but many times they require supplemental assistance to effect full recovery."

FEMA helps lessen the burden on local and state governments by providing assistance for those necessary activities to protect lives, public health and safety. Following a federal disaster declaration, the federal share of recovery costs is at least 75 percent. In Mississippi, the state and local government split the 25 percent share.

Sometimes, FEMA can assist in cost-effective repairs that will limit damage in future disasters, such as replacing an undersized culvert blown-out by fast moving floodwaters with a larger-size culvert capable of handing the increased water flow. The change reduces the likelihood that it will incur damages in a future disaster event.

How PA has helped Mississippi in the past:

After Hurricane Katrina, funding was made available to restore damaged and destroyed public facilities and buildings operated by non-profit organizations that provide essential services of a governmental nature. That funding is vital for ongoing rebuilding of the infrastructure Katrina left in ruins.

Permanent repairs to damaged facilities, such as roads, bridges, public buildings and utilities often represent a serious challenge to local governments. FEMA funding and technical assistance help with the restoration of such facilities to their pre-disaster design. When Katrina destroyed Jones County's emergency services communication tower, FEMA and MEMA worked together to obligate and expedite funds to repair their critical emergency service needs.

How the PA program works:

  • MEMA conducts an applicant briefing with all government and non-profit entities to explain the Public Assistance program and processes.
  • Applicant 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 where FEMA and state officials explain the disaster assistance process to local officials.
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Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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