There are two types of work eligible for reimbursement through a Public Assistance Grant: emergency work and permanent work. Each of these work types are further divided into categories based on the action being performed for emergency work, or the type of facility repaired for permanent work. The categories of work are often identified by a single letter. The categories are:
- Road Systems and Bridges
- Water Control Facilities
- Buildings, Contents, and Equipment
- Parks, Recreational, and Other
Category A: Debris Removal
Debris Removal is the clearance, removal, and/or disposal of items such as trees, woody debris, sand, mud, silt, gravel, building components, wreckage, vehicles, and personal property.
For debris removal to be eligible, the work must be necessary to:
Eliminate an immediate threat to lives, public health and safety
Eliminate immediate threats of significant damage to improved public or private property
Ensure the economic recovery of the affected community to the benefit of the community-at-large
Mitigate the risk to life and property by removing substantially damaged structures and associated appurtenances as needed to convert property acquired through a FEMA hazard mitigation program to uses compatible with open space, recreation, or wetlands management practices
Examples of eligible debris removal activities include:
Debris removal from a street or highway to allow the safe passage of emergency vehicles
Debris removal from public property to eliminate health and safety hazards
Examples of ineligible debris removal activities include:
Removal of debris, such as tree limbs and trunks, from natural (unimproved) wilderness areas
Removal of pre-disaster sediment from engineered channels
Removal of debris from a natural channel unless the debris poses an immediate threat of flooding to improved property
Debris removal from private property is generally not eligible because it is the responsibility of the individual property owner. If property owners move the disaster-related debris to a public right-of-way, the local government may be reimbursed for curbside pickup and disposal for a limited period of time. If the debris on private business and residential property is so widespread that public health, safety, or the economic recovery of the community is threatened, FEMA may fund debris removal from private property, but it must be approved in advance by FEMA.
Category B: Emergency Protective Measures
Emergency Protective Measures are actions taken by Applicants before, during, and after a disaster to save lives, protect public health and safety, and prevent damage to improved public and private property. Emergency communications, emergency access and emergency public transportation costs may also be eligible.
Examples of eligible emergency protective measures are:
Warning devices (barricades, signs, and announcements)
Search and rescue
Security forces (police and guards)
Construction of temporary levees
Provision of shelters or emergency care
Bracing/shoring damaged structures
Provision of food, water, ice and other essential needs
Removal of health and safety hazards
Category C: Roads and Bridges
Roads (paved, gravel, and dirt) are eligible for permanent repair or replacement under the Public Assistance Program, unless they are Federal-aid roads. Eligible work includes repair to surfaces, bases, shoulders, ditches, culverts, low water crossings, and other features, such as guardrails. Damage to the road must be disaster-related to be eligible for repair. In addition, repairs necessary as the result of normal deterioration, such as "alligator cracking," are not eligible because it is pre-disaster damage.
Landslides and washouts often affect roads. Earthwork in the vicinity of a road may be eligible, but only if the work is necessary to ensure the structural integrity of the road.
Road or bridge closures resulting from a disaster may increase traffic loads on nearby roads. If diverted traffic causes damage to a road, FEMA may pay to repair this damage if no alternative is available. Restoration of a damaged road may include upgrades necessary to meet current codes and standards, as defined by the State or local department of highways. Typical standards affect lane width, loading design, and construction materials.
Bridges are eligible for repair or replacement under the Public Assistance Program, unless they are on a Federal-aid road. Eligible work includes repairs to decking, guardrails, girders, pavement, abutments, piers, slope protection, and approaches. Only repairs of disaster-related damage are eligible. In some cases, FEMA may use pre-disaster bridge inspection reports to determine if damage to a bridge was present before the disaster.
Work to repair scour or erosion damage to the channel and stream banks is eligible if the repair is necessary to ensure the structural integrity of the bridge. Earthwork that is not related to the structural integrity of the bridge is not eligible. Similarly, work to remove debris, such as fallen trees, from the channel at the bridge is eligible if the debris could cause further damage to the structure or if the blockage could cause flood waters to inundate nearby homes, businesses, or other facilities.
When replacement of a damaged bridge is warranted, eligible work may include upgrades necessary to meet current standards for road and bridge construction, as defined by the State or local highway department. Typical standards affect lane width, loading design, construction materials, and hydraulic capacity. If code requires, and if the Applicant has consistently enforced that code, FEMA will permit changes in the bridge design from one lane to two lanes to include access modification for a short distance (i.e., within area of damage). This does not apply to other expansions of capacity (e.g., from two lanes to four lanes).
Permanent restoration of a road or bridge that service USACE or NRCS levees and dams, private and commercial roads, and homeowners' association roads or fall under the authority of the Federal Highway Administration is not eligible for public assistance.
Category D: Water Control Facilities
Water control facilities include dams and reservoirs, levees, lined and unlined engineered drainage channels, shore protective devices, irrigation facilities, and pumping facilities.
Restoration of the carrying capacity of engineered channels and debris basins may be eligible, but maintenance records or surveys must be produced to show the pre-disaster capacity of these facilities. The pre-disaster level of debris in the channel or basin is of particular importance to determine the amount of newly deposited disaster-related debris. Such a facility must also have had a regular clearance schedule to be considered an actively used and maintained facility.
Restoration of reservoirs to their pre-disaster capacity also may be eligible in accordance with the criteria for debris basins described above. Not all reservoirs are cleaned out on a regular basis, and evidence of pre-disaster maintenance must be provided to FEMA. In addition, removal of debris that poses an immediate threat of clogging or damaging intake or adjacent structures may be eligible.
The USACE and NRCS have primary authority for repair of flood control works, whether constructed with Federal or non-Federal funds, as well as authority over federally funded shore protective devices. Permanent repairs to these facilities are not eligible through the PA Program.
Category E: Buildings and Equipment
Buildings, including contents such as furnishings and interior systems such as electrical work, are eligible for repair or replacement under the Public Assistance Program. In addition to contents, FEMA will pay for the replacement of pre-disaster quantities of consumable supplies and inventory. FEMA will also pay for the replacement of library books and publications. Removal of mud, silt, or other accumulated debris is eligible, along with any cleaning and painting necessary to restore the building.
If an insurance policy applies to a facility, FEMA will deduct from eligible costs the amount of insurance proceeds, actual or anticipated, before providing funds for restoration of the facility. FEMA will reduce public assistance grants by the maximum amount of insurance proceeds an Applicant would receive for an insurable building located in an identified floodplain that is not covered by Federal flood insurance. The reduction in eligible costs will be the larger of the two reductions just described. The owners of insurable buildings can expedite the grant process by providing FEMA with policy and settlement information as soon as possible after a disaster occurs.
FEMA may pay for upgrades that are required by certain codes and standards. Examples include roof bracing installed following a hurricane, seismic upgrades to mitigate damage from earthquakes, and upgrades to meet standards regarding use by the disabled. For repairs, upgrades are limited to damaged elements only. If a structure must be replaced, the new facility must comply with all applicable codes and standards regardless of the level of FEMA funding.
If a damaged building must be replaced, FEMA has the authority to pay for a building with the same capacity as the original structure. However, if the standard for space per occupant has changed since the original structure was built, FEMA may pay for an increase in size to comply with that standard while maintaining the same occupant capacity. A Federal or State agency or statute must mandate the increase in space; it cannot be based only on design practices for an industry or profession.
Category F: Utilities
Typical Utilities include:
Water treatment plants and delivery systems
Power generation and distribution facilities, including generators, substations, and power lines
Sewage collection systems and treatment plants
The owner of a facility is responsible for determining the extent of damage incurred. FEMA does not provide funds for random surveys to look for damage, such as TV inspection of sewer lines. If disaster-related damage is evident, however, FEMA may pay for inspections to determine the extent of the damage and method of repair.
While FEMA will pay for restoration of damaged utilities, FEMA does not provide funds for increased operating expenses resulting from a disaster. Similarly, FEMA cannot provide funds for revenue lost if a utility is shut down. However, the cost of establishing temporary, emergency services in the event of a utility shut-down may be eligible.
Category G: Parks, Recreational Facilities, and Other Items
Repair and restoration of parks, playgrounds, pools, cemeteries, and beaches. This category also is used for any work or facility that cannot be characterized adequately by Categories A-F
Eligible publicly-owned facilities in this category include: playground equipment, swimming pools, bath houses, tennis courts, boat docks, piers, picnic tables, and golf courses.
Other types of facilities, such as roads, buildings and utilities, that are located in parks and recreational areas are also eligible and are subject to the eligibility criteria for Categories C, D, E, and F.
Natural features are not eligible facilities unless they are improved and maintained. This restriction applies to features located in parks and recreational areas. Specific criteria apply to beaches and to trees and ground cover.
Beaches. Emergency placement of sand on a natural or engineered beach may be eligible when necessary to protect improved property from an immediate threat. Protection may be to a 5-year storm profile or to its pre-storm profile, whichever is less.
A beach is considered eligible for permanent repair if it is an improved beach and has been routinely maintained prior to the disaster. A beach is considered to be an "improved beach" if the following criteria apply:
the beach was constructed by the placement of sand to a designed elevation, width, grain size, and slope; and
the beach has been maintained in accordance with a maintenance program involving the periodic re-nourishment of sand at least every 5 years.
Typically, FEMA will request the following from an applicant before approving assistance for permanent restoration of a beach:
design documents and specifications, including analysis of grain size;
documentation of regular maintenance or nourishment of the beach; and
pre- and post-storm cross sections of the beach.
Permanent restoration of sand on natural beaches is not eligible.
Trees and Ground Cover. The replacement of trees, shrubs, and other ground cover is not eligible. This restriction applies to trees and shrubs in recreational areas, such as parks, as well as trees and shrubs associated with public facilities, such as those located in the median strips along roadways and as landscaping for public buildings. Grass and sod are eligible only when necessary to stabilize slopes and minimize sediment runoff.
This restriction does not affect removal of tree debris or the removal of trees as an emergency protective measure. FEMA will reimburse for the removal of tree debris and the removal of trees as emergency protective measures if the removal eliminates an immediate threat to lives, public health and safety, and improved property, or if removal is necessary to ensure the economic recovery of the affected community to the benefit of the community-at-large. However, FEMA will not reimburse for the replacement of these trees.