A Closer Look at FEMA's Public Assistance Program

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Release date: 
December 21, 2011
Release Number: 

NEPTUNE, N.J. -- New Jersey has had four disaster declarations since summer 2011 and has submitted more than 1,100 requests for assistance for Hurricane Irene damage under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Public Assistance program. It’s the most requests ever submitted to FEMA for a single disaster in New Jersey.

Using Irene as a guide, here’s a sketch of how the Public Assistance (PA) program works.

Irene started pounding the state Aug. 27, resulting in a presidential disaster declaration Aug. 31. Damage from the storm was so widespread that for the first time in state history, all 21 counties became eligible for disaster assistance under two federal programs: Individual Assistance (IA) and Public Assistance (PA).

The PA program provides supplemental federal assistance to state government agencies; local, county and tribal governments; and certain private nonprofit organizations „Ÿ all of which must meet certain criteria.

FEMA works with the state, which schedules applicant briefings soon after the declaration. During these briefings, authorities explain how the PA process works, including the types of documentation required for funding; deadlines for requesting PA funds; and the categories under which applicants may submit projects to be considered for funding.

Applicants „Ÿ a town or public museum, for instance „Ÿ have 30 days after a county is designated as eligible for funding to submit their requests for Public Assistance. That doesn’t exclude the same applicant from submitting other projects for Public Assistance under a separate declaration „Ÿ Tropical Storm Lee, for example. For each project, the applicant must provide documentation for a defined scope of work.

Projects eligible for PA funds generally fall under any of seven categories. Among them: cleaning up the community; emergency measures taken to protect the public before, during and after a disaster; repairing roads and bridges; putting water systems and utilities back in order; rebuilding libraries and replacing damaged books; repairing hospitals and emergency services; rebuilding schools and universities; and restoring damaged public parks so that families can enjoy them again.

Public Assistance grants approved by FEMA reimburse at least 75 percent of the eligible costs of repair and replacement for individual projects. The other 25 percent could come from the state or municipalities receiving the funding. Once the projects are approved, FEMA turns the funds over to the state, which is accountable for use of the funds and is responsible for disbursing the funds.

Under four disaster declarations in New Jersey since summer 2011, here is a list of the counties eligible for PA funding:

  • Flooding in mid-August: Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties
  • Hurricane Irene: all 21 counties
  • Tropical Storm Lee in early September: Hunterdon, Mercer, Passaic, Sussex and Warren counties
  • Severe storm Oct. 29: Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren counties.

FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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