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Simplifying the Public Assistance Program

To help meet the goals of FEMA’s 2022-2026 Strategic Plan, FEMA re-established the Public Assistance Steering Committee.

The committee is an advisory group of state, territorial, tribal and local government representatives designed to help improve the Public Assistance process for applicants. The committee first convened in 2017 to provide real-world partner perspectives, inform strategic program changes and discuss overall program improvements.


FEMA is now beginning to implement proposed changes from the committee. Below is a listing of items the agency is doing to improve the Public Assistance process. These measures will be formally adopted and included in future versions of the “Public Assistance Program and Policy Guide.”

Simplifying the Processes

In March 2022, FEMA made the first changes based on recommendations to help speed recovery efforts and reduce applicant burdens.

  • Simplified documentation requirements for unobligated projects.
  • Waved the requirement that unobligated projects with completed small projects must be prepared based on actual costs.
  • Adjusted the deadline for projects with work already completed.
  • Began deploying technical experts from FEMA Consolidated Resource Centers to aid project scoping and development for complex operations and projects.
  • Released the “Public Assistance Sampling Procedure to reduce documentation level requirements.
  • Provided examples allowing a FEMA Regional Administrator to approve time extensions for project closeout.
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Streamline Public Assistance

In September 2022, FEMA took these additional steps to streamline Public Assistance.

  • Allowed additional flexibility in costs claimed for power restoration work.
  • Eliminated size requirements for the eligibility of the removal of hazardous trees, limbs, branches, and stumps for debris removal projects.
  • Allowed applicants to develop cost estimates faster without using consensus-based codes in 50% rule calculations. 
  • Not requiring separate cost analysis from work performed through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact during disaster response and recovery operations.

Simplifying Management Cost

In March 2023, FEMA released a Memo “Simplifying the Public Assistance Program - Management Costs” to further streamline Public Assistance as it relates to Management Costs documentation for force account labor.

FEMA now accepts a summary of force account labor and equipment costs incurred for administration and management of PA awards. The summary should capture work and costs being claimed, including:

  • number of employees;
  • list of equipment used and the equipment rates;
  • total labor and equipment hours (or miles for vehicles) spent during the time frame;
  • total labor and equipment costs; and
  • general description of all tasks performed by individuals during the time frame.

Applicant funding is still based on actual costs incurred, but FEMA now requires less detailed documentation as a starting point.

Detailed documentation will only be requested if additional review is necessary due to questions or concerns. Recipients and Subrecipients are still required to retain actual cost documentation pursuant to federal record retention regulations and may be asked to provide documentation for audits or to support appeals or arbitration cases.

Independent Assessment of FEMA’s Public Assistance Program Now Available

Effective Jan. 20, 2023, the findings and recommendations of the 2022 Public Assistance (PA) Assessment are now available.

The purpose of the PA assessment was to determine if the PA National Delivery Model and the establishment of the Consolidated Resource Centers were meeting the original design intent from 2017 to standardize PA Program delivery; increase accuracy, efficiency, and simplicity; and improve timeliness and accessibility for processing grants for states, localities, Tribal Nations, and territories (SLTT). A contract to conduct the assessment was secured in early 2022. 

The resulting independent report will aid in meeting the agency’s commitment to simplify and streamline program requirements, reduce the burden on stakeholders/applicants and expand access to PA grant funding.   

Read the Report

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Key Findings

PA assessment key findings include the following: 

  • The PA National Delivery Model has increased transparency and accuracy in the execution of the PA Program. 
  • The obligation of over $50 billion in almost three years (March 2020- December 2022) in response to COVID-19, compared to an average of $5-8 billion per year outside of COVID-19 events (2018-2020), may not be possible without the PA National Delivery Model. 

PA assessment recommendations include: 

  • Build more flexibility into the delivery of the PA Program through re-evaluating existing Consolidated Resource Center operating procedures and increasing FEMA staff deployments to partner with stakeholders. 
  • Institute an approach for the PA Program to identify and elevate possible policy or processing inconsistencies for resolution.
  • Adjust the current policy development and publication process to reduce confusion for internal and external stakeholders.  
  • Apply a unified risk-based approach to delivering the PA Program to streamline program requirements and promote consistency. 
  • Increase training opportunities, including a focus on building targeted skillsets for those that execute the PA Program, to enhance customer service. 
  • Consistently engage FEMA Regions, applicants, and recipients when updating PA Program policy or processes to support effective change management. 

FEMA’s efforts to address the recommendations from the PA assessment are well underway and will continue throughout 2023 and future years as needed.

Review the Recommendations Implementation Summary

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