In 2014, FEMA conducted an in-depth analysis of the existing Public Assistance program's delivery process. A comprehensive examination of the program revealed the program averages $4.7 billion annually in federal disaster assistance to state, local, tribal and territorial governments, and certain private non-profit organizations to repair or rebuild public infrastructure. However, the program had not evolved to meet the changing needs of its customers during the last 20 years. One of the shortfalls included using a one-size-fits-all approach to process projects, regardless of the project's size or cost.
Following months of analysis and restructuring, a new delivery model was designed to meet the needs of applicants by streamlining and categorizing projects. The goal moving forward is to deliver the program more efficiently to applicants as they work to rebuild public infrastructure after a disaster. FEMA now uses the Grants Manager and Grants Portal tool, which is a web-based, project tracking system for use by FEMA and our stakeholders. The tool captures Public Assistance program projects in formulation for a seamless transition to grant obligation. The model also uses Consolidated Resource Centers, which are centralized locations where subject matter experts are staffed to process grant applications across multiple disasters.
The new PA program delivery model was implemented using a phased approach. Following successful implementations with Iowa, Oregon, Georgia, Iowa, and in current disasters in New Hampshire, North Dakota, Vermont, Wyoming, and Missouri. Delivery of Public Assistance now simplifies and improves the delivery of grants by deliberately targeting the early phases of the grants life-cycle in order to avoid challenges that historically arose post-award and during grant closeout. Beginning on September 12, 2017, the updated Public Assistance delivery model will be implemented on all future disaster declarations.
The New Process
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the new Public Assistance program delivery model?
The new Public Assistance delivery model is the way that FEMA is delivers Public Assistance to applicants following a disaster declaration. Under this model, projects are segmented based on the complexity of the type of work; workflows are transparent and accountable through the Grants Manager and Grants Portal tool; specialized staff, roles, and responsibilities are paired to fit applicants’ needs; and, Consolidated Resource Centers ensure consistency across multiple disaster operations. An overview of the process is explained in the New Public Assistance Delivery Model Fact Sheet.
Who designed the new process and what is different about it?
In January 2015, FEMA held a series of share sessions to analyze ways to enhance the program’s delivery. These sessions included participation from the ten FEMA regions, 43 states, and four tribal nations. Since the share sessions, FEMA’s Recovery Directorate and Public Assistance Division convened subject matter experts who spent six weeks designing the new business model.
Changes to the delivery model focus more on internal PA processes and do not affect federal laws, regulations, and policies. The new delivery model takes the previous one-size-fits-all approach to PA and processes projects based on their complexity and scale. The delivery model provides applicants with a process that is simplified, accurate, efficient, accessible, and timely.
Will all Public Assistance disasters use the new delivery model?
Beginning September 12, 2017, FEMA will implement this delivery model on all future declared disasters.
What were the selection criteria in for states that previously implemented the new PA program delivery model?
The size, complexity, and type of damage in these disasters matched the capabilities of the templates created for the new process model and available staff capabilities.
Will the New Process model implementation affect eligibility?
No. The new model environment will not change any eligibility standards under the Public Assistance Program. A complete explanation of FEMA’s eligibility criteria can be found in the Public Assistance Program and Policy Guide.
Will the new model affect the amount of assistance received?
No. The new model does not change the eligibility criterion that directly affects the amount of assistance FEMA may be able to provide. This new process can shorten the amount of time it takes for FEMA to obligate funding to applicants for some projects.
Will this change the current small project threshold?
No. All project worksheets must have a minimum of $3,100 of eligible costs to be considered for reimbursement. The distinction between a small project and a large project will be $123,100, which is consistent with all other disasters in fiscal year 2017.
What should be expected with the new process?
The new model may change the way FEMA interacts with you during the recovery process, especially if you have worked through the Public Assistance process previously. Our intention through this new process is to be more customer oriented, be able to better meet your needs, and deliver our grant funding faster. You should expect FEMA staff to have different titles and treat some of your projects differently based on the type and complexity of the project.
What do I need to do now?
The first step to receiving Public Assistance funding is to complete the Request for Public Assistance. The state will host an Applicant’s Briefing to explain the process and answer your questions. You should be in contact with your state’s emergency manager to ensure you know when the briefing will occur and when to submit the Request for Public Assistance form.
If I just completed paperwork for the damage assessment will I need to re-do that paperwork under this new process?
One of the elements this new process will implement is the ability to better use the information collected during the preliminary damage assessment process. This will be explained in more detail during the applicant briefing.
Can I opt out?
No. All applicants requesting funding from FEMA’s Public Assistance program will utilize the new process. Applicants may choose to opt out by deciding they do not wish to receive funding under FEMA’s Public Assistance program.
Does the new model affect my ability to participate in the Public Assistance Alternative Procedure Pilot Program?
No. In fact, FEMA encourages applicants to take advantage of the Alternative Procedures Pilot Program in these disasters. The Alternative Procedures Pilot Program has a lot of great advantages including increased financial incentives for pre-disaster debris plans and the rapid removal of debris following the disaster. It also allows greater flexibility in how you use grant funding on permanent work projects by allowing you to choose a fixed capped grant based on an estimate and move funding from one project site to another based on your post-disaster needs. To find out more about the program please visit http://www.fema.gov/alternative-procedures.
What’s different between implementing the new model and a normal disaster operation?
Change to the Public Assistance program is not about what we do, but rather how we do it. The primary differences will be in how FEMA and the State will organize its staff and process the projects. Previously, FEMA treated every Public Assistance project exactly the same, regardless of type or complexity. The new delivery model is a new way to segment projects into three work streams: completed projects, standard projects, and specialized projects. The end result be a more streamlined grant delivery process, faster funding, and a better overall experience with FEMA.
Will I have an opportunity to provide feedback on how it went afterwards?
Yes. FEMA will be completing an analysis on how the new process works and will reach out to collect feedback from participants. FEMA always strives for continuous improvement to improve our disaster services.
Will this increase the likelihood that I be audited?
As with all FEMA grants, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General conducts regular audits to ensure that FEMA funding is being used appropriately and within the guidelines of the law. With the acceptance of any federal funds, applicants should be prepared to retain all documentation. FEMA provides training on our website to help applicants comply with federal procurement regulations, which is a common cause of funding withheld or taken back as a result of an audit. More information on complying with federal procurement is available at http://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/96773.
Will the new Public Assistance process make it less likely FEMA will de-obligate funding in out years?
The new process will not change the fundamentals of the programs eligibility, nor its requirements to follow federal regulations. At the conclusion of the project a closeout process will occur requiring FEMA and state staff to reconcile project costs. Strong documentation and record keeping is highly recommended. The new process does not prevent the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General from conducting audits, which could result in a de-obligation.
What happens if the implementation of the new process doesn’t work? Will FEMA revise the process?
FEMA will be continually monitoring the progress implementation as it occurs and making corrections, as necessary. Future disasters that utilize this new process will incorporate any lessons learned.