The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, as Amended (Stafford Act), Title 42 of the United States Code (U.S.C.) § 5121 et seq., authorizes the President to provide Federal assistance when the magnitude of an incident or threatened incident exceeds the affected State, Territorial, Indian Tribal, and local government capabilities to respond or recover.
The purpose of the Public Assistance (PA) Grant Program is to support communities’ recovery from major disasters by providing them with grant assistance for debris removal, life-saving emergency protective measures, and restoring public infrastructure. Local governments, states, tribes, territories and certain private nonprofit organizations are eligible to apply.
Public Assistance is FEMA's largest grant program. Since 2017, FEMA gave over five billion dollars through PA grants to help communities clear debris and rebuild roads, schools, libraries, and other public facilities.
FEMA’s Public Assistance Program provides supplemental grants to state, tribal, territorial, and local governments, and certain types of private non-profits so that communities can quickly respond to and recover from major disasters or emergencies. FEMA also encourages protection of these damaged facilities from future events by providing assistance for hazard mitigation measures during the recovery process. More detailed information can also be located in the FEMA Public Assistance Program and Policy Guide.
The Life of a PA Grant
The PA Program follows FEMA's common set of phases known as the Grants Management Life Cycle:
- Pre-Award: Applicants work with the Recipient and FEMA to develop the award package for a grant.
- Award: FEMA approves the award package and allocates funding.
- Post-Award: Funds are released to the Recipients who must maintain, monitor, and report upon.
- Closeout: FEMA administers performance evaluation, financial and appeal reconciliation, final reporting activities, appeal resolution and debt actions.
- Post-Closeout: As necessary, FEMA performs debt collection actions, audit, and other adjustments may continue after grant closeout.
The PA Grant Program begins with the Declaration Process when an area has received a Presidential declaration of an emergency or major disaster. Applicants will coordinate with the Recipient and FEMA to complete their award package during the Pre-Award phase of the grant lifecycle.
Roles and Responsibilities
Multiple layers of government work in partnership to administer the PA Grant Program once a disaster has been declared. Each entity must work together to meet the overall objective of a quick, efficient, and effective program delivery.
FEMA's primary responsibilities are to determine the amount of funding, participate in educating the applicant on specific program issues and procedures, assist the applicant with the development of projects, and review the projects for compliance.
- FEMA: The federal awarding agency authorized to manage the program.
- Recipients: The State, Territorial, or Tribal government that receives funding under the disaster declaration and disburses funding to approved subrecipients.
- Applicants: Entities submitting a request for assistance under the recipient's federal award.
- Subrecipients: Applicants who have received a subaward from the Recipient and is then bound by the conditions of the award and subaward.
The four basic components of eligibility are applicant, facility, work, and cost.
- An Applicant must be a state, territory, tribe, local government, private nonprofit organization.
- A Facility must be a building, public works, system, equipment, or natural feature.
- Work is categorized as either Emergency or Permanent. It must be required as a result of the declared incident, located within the designated disaster area, and the legal responsibility of the Applicant.
Cost is the funding tied directly to eligible work, and must be adequately documented, authorized, necessary and reasonable. Eligible costs include labor, equipment, materials, contract work, as well as direct and indirect administrative costs.
Projects must be completed within the Regulatory deadlines. Emergency Work must be completed within six months; Permanent Work within 18 months. Applicants may submit a request in writing to the Recipient for consideration of a time extension.
The federal share of assistance is not less than 75 percent of the eligible cost. The Recipient determines how the non-federal share (up to 25 percent) is split with the sub-recipients (i.e. eligible applicants).
Applicants may not duplicate benefits with insurance and must comply with Environmental, Historic Preservation, and Floodplain Management laws as part of the eligibility conditions. Procurement standards in the use of contracts for acquiring disaster-related goods and services must meet certain guidelines in order to receive funding.
- Public Assistance Fact Sheet
- Building Back Better - Public Assistance Fact Sheet
- Public Assistance Private Nonprofit Houses of Worship Fact Sheet
- Public Assistance Private Nonprofit Houses of Worship Fact Sheet with FAQ Public Assistance Reasonable Cost Evaluation Job Aid
- Public Assistance Contracting Requirements Checklist Public Assistance Debris Removal Tips Fact Sheet