AUSTIN, Texas -- As wildfires raged throughout Texas in 2011, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared a record 55 Fire Management Assistance Grants (FMAGs) to help local governments and other applicants recoup some of their firefighting costs. Now FEMA wants to help those applicants get their money.
Through an innovative pilot program called Recovery Assistance Mobile-Based Operations (RAMBO), FEMA Public Assistance teams can work with the applicant much the way a tax preparer works with a client during tax season — and RAMBO is available to go right to the applicant’s office.
“Contacting a RAMBO team leads to expedited assistance,” said FEMA Public Assistance Branch Director Karri DuBois. “Not only is a checklist provided beforehand to help the applicants know the kind of paperwork to collect, we then save everyone time by reviewing the documentation and helping them work through the process.”
The team goes over receipts and other documents with the applicant, making sure that all paperwork is in order and asking and answering questions so that the final project worksheet can be completed and funds quickly obligated.
In Kimble County, for instance, the RAMBO team helped get funds obligated within a couple of weeks rather than the normal timeframe of several months or longer.
“We worked closely with our state partner, the Texas Division of Emergency Management, to find a way to expedite the FMAG process, and RAMBO was the answer,” said Kevin L. Hannes, FEMA’s federal coordinating officer for the Texas wildfire disasters. “Our goal is to get local governments reimbursed as quickly as possible so they can focus on the current wildfire season.”
An FMAG is federal assistance approved while a fire is burning uncontrolled and threatens such destruction as to constitute a major disaster. It offers 75 percent reimbursement for eligible expenses such as overtime labor, equipment and supplies, provisions for shelters, safety items for firefighters and mutual aid. The grant recipient for an FMAG is the state. State agencies and local entities apply to the state for subgrants.
FMAGs were declared in 2011 for specific fires in Archer, Bastrop, Bexar, Bosque, Brewster, Cass, Clay, Coke, Eastland, Ector, Ellis, Fisher, Grimes, Harris, Howard, Hutchinson, Jack, Jasper, Jeff Davis, Kent, Kimble, King, Knox, Marion, Midland, Mitchell, Montgomery, Motley, Nolan, Palo Pinto, Potter, Presidio, Randall, Shackelford, Somervell, Stephens, Stonewall, Tom Green, Travis, Walker, Waller, Webb, Wichita, Wilbarger, Williamson and Young counties.
Applicants wanting assistance from RAMBO should contact their state Public Assistance coordinator.
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.