Rethinking the Public Assistance Program

Main Content

Introduction to the Public Assistance Bottom up Review (BUR)

FEMA is conducting a comprehensive, bottom-up review (BUR) and analysis of the existing Public Assistance program in order to find ways to improve the program and better serve communities affected by disasters. The BUR initiative is a multi-phase process intended to engage stakeholders and consider the greatest variety of public policy options. This review will involve engagement with PA stakeholders at the regional, state, Tribal, and local government levels. FEMA believes this important process will ensure that the PA program efficiently and effectively meets the needs of the public and is accountable for the use of federal funds. The results of this analysis will inform decisions regarding the future of the PA program.

FEMA will conduct the PA BUR in four phases:

Phase I: Stakeholder Engagement
Phase II: Feedback Analysis and Program Option Development
Phase III: Vetting and Validation of Concepts
Phase IV: Feedback Analysis

  • Public Assistance BUR Issue Paper (PDF 31KB, TXT 11KB)

Phase I: Stakeholder Engagement

FEMA will engage external stakeholders through this website, by soliciting direct feedback on proposed program concepts, and interaction with the National Advisory Council and Regional Advisory Councils, States, Tribes, national associations, and local stakeholders.

Specifically, FEMA is seeking input on the following issues:

  1. How should FEMA redesign and streamline the PA Program to provide applicants the greatest flexibility possible in the recovery process while ensuring accountability for the use of taxpayer dollars and compliance with federal statutory requirements?

  2. What are the appropriate/optimum roles and responsibilities of FEMA and other Federal agencies, as well as States, Tribes and local communities in a new PA program?

  3. If given greater flexibility for the use of PA funding, would States and Tribes be willing to take on more responsibility for program administration; and if so, what would that role be, and what resources would be required to perform that role and meet the responsibilities effectively?

  4. If FEMA were to advance funds earlier in the disaster process, what mechanisms would you suggest to do this within FEMA’s current statutory authority?

  5. If FEMA revamps the PA Program, would grantees and subgrantees prefer to have a fixed budget based on an estimate developed early in the disaster, or the actual cost reimbursement process that currently exists?

  6. Can PA be better linked with other FEMA programs? If so, how?

  7. What does FEMA need to do to ensure that the program is scalable to small, large and catastrophic disasters?

  8. Are there aspects of the existing program that should remain unchanged?

Please email input on these issues to by May 31, 2011.

Phase II: Feedback Analysis and Program Option Development

FEMA will review and analyze the feedback from stakeholders.  This feedback will be reviewed in relation to PA’s mission in order to identify viable options that can be implemented within the current Stafford Act framework

Phase III: Vetting and Validation of Concepts

FEMA will provide its stakeholders an opportunity to review and provide feedback on the proposed program concepts.

Phase IV: Feedback Analysis

FEMA will review and analyze the public feedback on the proposed program options. 

Phase IV will conclude the Bottom Up Review.  FEMA will initiate changes to the program in early 2012.

Answers to Questions about the PA BUR

Why is FEMA conducting a PA Bottom Up Review?

The Public Assistance (PA) Program provides grants to State, Tribal and local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations for emergency protective measures and the repair, restoration, and replacement of damaged infrastructure so that communities can quickly respond to and recover from major disasters and emergencies declared by the President.  Some of FEMA’s stakeholders have advised that the Program’s processes and policies for identifying and coming to agreement on eligible damages, scopes of work, and costs can lead to disputes and slow the pace of disaster recovery. FEMA is committed to ensuring that our programs are as efficient and effective as possible so that communities can quickly recover from the effects of disasters.  Therefore, FEMA is soliciting input on how it can make changes to improve the delivery of PA.

Who will be conducting the analysis?

FEMA has established an internal PA Program Review Workgroup to identify and analyze options for the future of the PA program. This internal working group is a cross-section of FEMA PA headquarters and regional offices, the Federal Coordinating Officer Cadre, the Office of Environmental Planning and Historic Preservation, the Office of Policy and Program Analysis, and the Office of Chief Counsel.

Is the website the only way we are engaging stakeholders?

This webpage is just one way we are engaging stakeholders. FEMA has conducted, and will continue to conduct briefings, conference calls, and distribute advisories to our stakeholders. FEMA regional offices are designed to ensure close cooperation and communication with our stakeholders across the country and they are taking steps to ensure that communities are aware of this review.

Who is FEMA seeking input from?

FEMA is seeking input from our stakeholders who use the Public Assistance program; Tribal, State, and Local governments and certain Private Non Profit organizations. However, FEMA will accept input from anyone interested in submitting comments, including academic institutions.   

How does this work relate to efforts by FEMA and others in recent years?

The PA Program Review Workgroup will consider the analysis, input, and advice collected in recent years from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General.

How can stakeholders provide input on this process and recommend changes to the PA Program?

FEMA recognizes the value of stakeholder involvement and input in the policy process. To provide comments for consideration as part of the PA BUR effort, please send emails to

Last Updated: 
07/24/2014 - 16:00
Back to Top