ORLANDO, Fla. -- In August after Floridians dealt with Tropical Storm Fay and later in September with the wrath of Hurricane Gustav, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared both storms major disasters.
Disaster aid in the form of Public Assistance or "infrastructure assistance" was made available to the state and local governments in 41 Fay-stricken counties and six counties for Hurricane Gustav.
The Public Assistance Program provides federal assistance to state and local governments and certain private, nonprofit organizations. FEMA's Public Assistance grants fund reimbursement costs for emergency protective measures, debris removal, and can fund the repair, restoration, reconstruction or replacement of public infrastructure such as roads and bridges, water control facilities, public buildings and contents, public utilities and parks, and other recreational facilities damaged during a disaster.
FEMA's voluntary Public Assistance Pilot Program added another option for applicants. There are four principal elements to the Pilot Program: First, grants of up to $500,000 can be provided on the basis of estimates.? Second, the federal cost-share of 75 percent can be increased to 80 percent for debris removal costs to those agencies having a FEMA-approved debris management plan and at least two pre-qualified debris and wreckage removal contractors identified prior to the disaster. Third, applicants may retain any revenue from the sale of disaster debris for recycling; and lastly, regular time salaries can be reimbursed as well as overtime salaries for debris-related activities. Under the standard Public Assistance program, regular salaries are not allowed for reimbursement.
FEMA officials warn that it's Public Assistance Pilot Program ends Dec. 31, 2008, and all project worksheets for debris removal and large projects up to $500,000 must be completed and obligated by that date in order to remain part of the pilot program. The pilot program began in 2007.
Public Assistance Coordinators/PAC Crew leaders work with state and local officials to file applications with appropriate documentation to FEMA. These "project worksheets" spell out the project purpose, cost, timeline and other information. An applicant may have a number of projects - bridges, road washouts, buildings, etc.
If a project is approved, FEMA "obligates" the funds to the state. The state, in turn, delivers funds to the project entity according to its plan. All parties involved want to see the transaction completed as timely as possible, but use of taxpayer funds requires a complete accounting.
FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.