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Private Nonprofit

Appeal Brief Appeal Letter Appeal Analysis

Appeal Brief

Disaster4399
ApplicantPanama City Fellowship Church of Praise
Appeal TypeSecond
PA ID#005-UQTGY-00
PW ID#Damage Inventory (DI) 266581
Date Signed2021-10-04T16:00:00

Summary Paragraph

From October 7-19, 2018, Hurricane Michael caused significant damage to a building (Facility) owned and maintained by the Panama City Fellowship Church of Praise (Applicant), a Private Nonprofit (PNP).  In a Determination Memorandum, FEMA found that the Applicant used less than 50 percent of the Facility for eligible PNP services, and it was therefore ineligible for Public Assistance (PA) funding.  The Applicant submitted a first appeal, arguing that FEMA’s denial of funding was improper.  It stated that the entire Facility was used for eligible services, and asserted that FEMA’s analysis of the Facility was in error.  In its transmittal, the Florida Division of Emergency Management (Grantee) expressed support for the appeal.  The FEMA Region IV Regional Administrator denied the appeal.  FEMA determined that 46 percent of the Facility was used to provide eligible PNP services associated with a house of worship (HOW).  As more than 50 percent is required for eligibility, FEMA found the Facility ineligible for PA funding.  The Applicant submitted a second appeal, reiterating its first appeal arguments, asserting that FEMA’s determinations were in error, and providing explanations for each of the uses specified in the first appeal determination.  In its transmittal, the Grantee again expresses support for the appeal. 

Authorities and Second Appeals

  • Stafford Act §§ 102(11), 406(a)(1)(B).
  • 44 C.F.R. §§ 206.221(e)-(f), 206.222(b), 206.223(b).
  • PAPPG, at 11, 13, 15-16.

Headnotes

  • To be eligible for PA funding, a PNP applicant must own or operate an eligible facility.  An eligible PNP facility is one that provides either: (1) a critical service; or (2) a non-critical, but essential social service to the general public.  FEMA considers houses of worship to be eligible non-critical, social type services.
    • FEMA determines that the Applicant is a PNP providing eligible services through a HOW.
    • The Facility is an eligible PNP facility; work and costs for its restoration are eligible for PA funding.

Conclusion

The Applicant is an eligible PNP that owns and operates an eligible Facility, a house of worship, through which it provides eligible services.  Work and costs to restore the Facility are eligible for PA funding.  Therefore, this appeal is granted.

 

Appeal Letter

Kevin Guthrie

Director

Florida Division of Emergency Management

2555 Shumard Oak Blvd.

Tallahassee, Florida 32399-2100

 

Re:  Second Appeal – Panama City Fellowship Church of Praise, PA ID: 005-UQTGY-00, FEMA-4399-DR-FL, Damage Inventory (DI) 266581, Private Nonprofit

 

Dear Mr. Guthrie:

This is in response to a letter from your office dated July 6, 2021, which transmitted the referenced second appeal on behalf of the Panama City Fellowship Church of Praise (Applicant).  The Applicant is appealing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) denial of estimated funding in the amount of $800,000.00 for building restoration.

As explained in the enclosed analysis, I have determined that the Applicant is an eligible Private Nonprofit that owns and operates an eligible Facility, a house of worship, through which it provides eligible services.  Work and costs to restore the Facility are eligible for Public Assistance funding.  Therefore, this appeal is granted.  By copy of this letter, I am requesting the Regional Administrator to take appropriate action to implement this determination.

Please inform the Applicant of my decision.  This determination is the final decision on this matter pursuant to 44 C.F.R. § 206.206, Appeals.

 

                                                                      Sincerely,

                                                                         /S/

                                                                      Ana Montero

                                                                     Division Director

                                                                     Public Assistance Division

 

Enclosure

cc:  Gracia Szczech

Regional Administrator

FEMA Region IV

Appeal Analysis

Background

From October 7-19, 2018, Hurricane Michael damaged a three-story, 34,366 square foot church (Facility)[1] in Panama City, Florida.  The Facility is owned and maintained by the Panama City Fellowship Church of Praise (Applicant), a Private Nonproft (PNP) organization.  The Applicant requested Public Assistance (PA), and subsequently claimed work and costs to restore the Facility, among other items.[2]

FEMA captured damages to the Facility in Damage Inventory number 266581.  However, in a May 18, 2020 Determination Memorandum, FEMA found that the restoration of the Facility was not eligible for PA funding.  FEMA categorized the Facility as a mixed-use PNP facility, and explained that its eligibility was therefore dependent on primary use, i.e., the use for which more than 50 percent of the physical space in the Facility was dedicated.  FEMA determined that just 23 percent of the Facility’s total square footage was used for eligible services as a house of worship.  Because less than 50 percent of the Facility’s square footage was used for eligible services, FEMA determined that the Facility was not eligible under the PA program.

 

First Appeal

The Applicant submitted a first appeal dated July 7, 2020, asserting that FEMA’s denial of PA funding for the restoration of the Facility was improper.  It argued that the entire Facility was used for eligible PNP services and therefore a mixed-use analysis was unnecessary.  Nevertheless, the Applicant asserted that FEMA’s mixed-use analysis of the Facility was done in error.  It provided detailed descriptions of the various uses for the Facility, and attached its own analysis of the Facility’s floor plan.  The Applicant also provided documentation, such as event fliers, church programs, food drive invoices, and photographs, supporting its descriptions of predisaster activities at the Facility.  It requested FEMA approve estimated costs of “no less than” $800,000.00 for the restoration project.[3]  In an August 20, 2020 transmittal letter, the Florida Division of Emergency Management (Grantee) expressed support for the appeal.

On March 19, 2021, the FEMA Region IV Regional Administrator denied the appeal.  FEMA referred to the Facility as a “multipurpose building,” and again performed a detailed mixed-use analysis of the interior spaces.  FEMA found that some of the activities previously identified as ineligible were in fact eligible services related to the Facility’s use as a house of worship.  However, other uses, including storage spaces associated with the house of worship, a theological seminary, and a housing program for the homeless, were ineligible.  FEMA calculated that just 46 percent of the Facility’s square footage was used for eligible services; as such, it did not meet the criterion for primary use (i.e., more than 50 percent).  Therefore, FEMA determined that the Facility was ineligible, and denied PA funding for the restoration.

Second Appeal

The Applicant submitted a second appeal dated April 26, 2021, disputing the first appeal determination and requesting FEMA reassess the Facility’s eligibility.[4]  The Applicant reiterates its first appeal arguments, and states that FEMA’s determinations on first appeal were made in error, and provides explanations for each of the uses specified in the first appeal determination.  In a July 6, 2021 transmittal letter, the Grantee expresses support for the appeal.

 

Discussion

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act allows FEMA to provide funding for repair, restoration, reconstruction, or replacement of eligible PNP facilities damaged or destroyed by a disaster.[5]  To be eligible for PA funding, an eligible PNP applicant must own or operate an eligible facility.[6]  An eligible PNP facility is one that provides educational, utility, emergency, medical, or custodial care services, or other essential social-type services to the general public, including houses of worship.[7]  PNP facilities that provide both eligible and ineligible services are considered mixed-use facilities.[8] 

The Facility, a church, is a house of worship.  It is owned and maintained by the Applicant, an eligible PNP, and provides essential social-type services to the general public.[9]  There is no indication in the record that any of the services at issue are unrelated to the Facility’s function as a house of worship or are otherwise ineligible.  For example, the Applicant adequately explained that the efforts of the theological seminary were intertwined within the broader mission of the church, that its storage spaces supported eligible activities within the Facility, and that its housing was exclusively dedicated to eligible PNP sheltering services.  Because FEMA does not find any of these services ineligible, a mixed-use analysis was not necessary in this case.      

 

Conclusion

The Applicant is an eligible PNP that owns and operates an eligible Facility, a house of worship, through which it provides eligible services.  Work and costs to restore the Facility are eligible for PA funding.  Therefore, this appeal is granted.

 

[1] The Facility is located at 2511 East 3rd Street in Panama City, Florida.

[2] The Applicant applied for and was denied a loan through the Small Business Administration; see Letter from Team Lead, Disaster Assistance Processing and Disbursement Ctr., U.S. Small Bus. Admin., to President, Panama City Fellowship Church of Praise, Inc., at 1 (May 16, 2019).

[3] Letter from Assistant Pastor, Panama City Fellowship Church of Praise, to FEMA Region IV, at 1 (July 7, 2020).

[4] Though the Applicant dated the letter April 26, 2021, it did not submit the letter to the Grantee until May 7, 2021; see Letter from Recovery Bureau Chief, Fla. Div. of Emergency Mgmt., to Assistant Adm’r, Recovery, FEMA Headquarters, at 1 (July 6, 2021).

[5] Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance (Stafford) Act § 406(a)(1)(B),

Title 42 United States Code (42 U.S.C.) § 5172(a)(1)(B) (2018).

[6] Title 44 Code of Federal Regulations (44 C.F.R.) §§ 206.221(e)-(f), 206.222(b), 206.223(b) (2018); Public Assistance Program and Policy Guide, FP 104-009-2, at 11 (Apr. 1, 2018) [hereinafter PAPPG].

[7] Stafford Act § 102(11), 42 U.S.C. § 5122(11); 44 C.F.R. § 206.221(e); PAPPG, at 11, 13, 15.

[8] PAPPG, at 16.

[9] It should also be noted that the Applicant received funding in this disaster for both debris removal and emergency protective measures.  Eligibility for such emergency work is also contingent on whether an eligible PNP owns or operates an eligible facility that provides an eligible service.  See PAPPG, at 14.

Last updated October 6, 2021