Public Assistance Guide

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Chapter 3: Applying for Public Assistance

Table of Contents Foreword Acronyms Chapters: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5

Following a disaster declaration by the President, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) makes assistance for recovery from the disaster available to eligible applicants. This chapter describes the process through which this assistance becomes available.

Process Overview
The PA Program is implemented through the steps listed below, each of which is described in this chapter.

  • a Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) is performed and Immediate Needs Funding and the need for Expedited Payments are identified

  • an Applicants' Briefing is held

  • potential applicants submit the Request for Public Assistance

  • a PAC Crew Leader (Public Assistance Coordinator) is assigned to each applicant

  • the PAC Crew Leader holds a Kickoff Meeting with the applicant

  • the applicant's specific needs are identified and cost estimates developed through the project formulation process

  • cost estimates for small projects that have been prepared by the applicant are checked through the validation process

  • FEMA approves and processes funding for the applicant's projects

Standard Operating Procedures
FEMA has developed a series of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that provide guidance for FEMA, the State and applicants on the processes discussed in this Chapter. SOPs are available on FEMA's website. The following documents are included.

  • 9570.2 Public Assistance Coordinator

  • 9570.4 Kickoff Meeting

  • 9570.5 Project Formulation

  • 9570.6 Validation of Small Projects

  • 9570.7 Immediate Needs Funding.

  • 9570.8 Cost Estimating Format for Large Projects.

  • 9570.9 Historic Review

Preliminary Damage Assessment, Immediate Needs Funding, and Expedited Payments
The Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) is performed to document the impact and magnitude of the disaster on individuals, families, businesses, and public property and to gather information for disaster management purposes. FEMA, the State, and an applicant representative participate in this effort. The information gathered during the PDA process is used to determine whether Federal assistance should be requested by the Governor and forms the basis for the disaster declaration.

While conducting the PDA, potential urgent needs in the immediate aftermath of the disaster may be identified. If the President declares a disaster and if the State has requested it, FEMA may provide Immediate Needs Funding (INF) to an applicant for emergency work that must be performed immediately and paid for within the first 60 days after the disaster declaration.

Immediate Needs Funding (INF) is for emergency work that must be performed immediately and paid for within the first 60 days after the disaster declaration. This form of funding must be requested by the State. Activities eligible for INF typically include:

  • debris removal; and.

  • emergency protective measures.

The funding may be used to cover such costs as overtime payroll, equipment costs, materials purchases, and contracts when these costs are incurred for emergency work. The amount of INF is limited to 50 percent of the PDA estimate of emergency work.

INF is not intended for those emergency work items that involve environmental or historic preservation concerns, work covered by insurance, or items of work that will require longer than 60 days to complete. Some examples of work for which INF is not appropriate are:

  • demolition of historic structures or parts of historic structures;

  • emergency work efforts covered by an existing insurance policy (such as building demolition or the removal of building debris);

  • debris removal and disposal within the Coastal Barrier Resources system; and.

  • large debris removal/disposal projects or major demolition of destroyed building projects that will require more than 60 days to complete.

PWs will be labeled as "INF."

Expedited Payments are made for applicants who participated in the PDA and who have applied for Public Assistance. FEMA will obligate 50 percent of the Federal share of the estimated cost of work under Categories A and B as estimated during the PDA. Payment for Category A will be within 60 days after the estimate was made and no later than 90 days after the Request for Public Assistance was submitted. Expedited payments are not intended for work that involves environmental or historic preservation concerns or work covered by insurance. The payments will need to be reconciled with actual costs. PWs will follow the normal PW process.

Applicants' Briefing
An Applicants' Briefing is a meeting conducted by a representative of the State for potential Public Assistance applicants. The briefing occurs after an emergency or major disaster has been declared and addresses application procedures, administrative requirements, funding, and program eligibility criteria.

The State representative is responsible for notifying potential applicants (State and local governments and PNPs) of the date, time, and location of the briefing. The size of the disaster area and the number of possible applicants determine whether more than one briefing is held. FEMA personnel participate in the briefing to clarify issues regarding eligibility, floodplain management, insurance requirements, environmental and historic preservation considerations, hazard mitigation, and Federal procurement standards. To obtain the maximum benefit from the information presented at the briefing, each applicant should send representatives from each of the following:

  • management;

  • public works; and

  • finance


Request for Public Assistance
The Request for Public Assistance (Request) is an applicant's official notification to FEMA of the intent to apply for Public Assistance. The Request for Public Assistance is available in the PA Forms Library. The form outlines general information identifying the applicant, including the applicant's name, address, and primary and secondary contacts.

Typically, the Request form is submitted at the Applicants' Briefing. If an applicant is unable to submit the Request at the briefing, the applicant must submit the form within 30 days of the date of designation of the area (county, parish, etc.) for Public Assistance. An applicant need not wait until all damage is identified before requesting assistance. Federal and State personnel will review each Request to ensure applicant eligibility. Once a Request has been submitted, the project formulation process can begin.

Assignment of the Public Assistance Coordination (PAC) Crew Leader
Once the Request has been forwarded to FEMA, the PAC Crew Leader is assigned to the applicant. The PAC Crew Leader is a program expert (FEMA or State) who serves as the applicant's customer service representative on PA Program matters and manages the processing of the applicant's projects. The PAC Crew Leader:

  • conducts a kickoff meeting with the applicant to discuss the program and its application to the applicant's specific needs;

  • works with the applicant to develop projects; obtains the appropriate technical assistance, if required, for the applicant's project(s);

  • reviews projects for compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and policies;

  • ensures that any Special Considerations associated with a project are identified and reviewed; and.

  • ensures that the applicant's Case Management File is maintained.

Kickoff Meeting
This meeting differs from the Applicants' Briefing conducted by the State at the onset of disaster operations. While the Applicants' Briefing describes the application process and gives a general overview of the PA Program, the Kickoff Meeting is conducted by the PAC Crew Leader and designed to provide a much more detailed review of the PA Program and the applicant's needs. The meeting is the first step in establishing a partnership among FEMA, the State, and the applicant and is designed to focus on the specific needs of that applicant. The meeting focuses on the eligibility and documentation requirements that are most pertinent to an applicant.

The PAC Crew Leader also discusses Special Considerations, such as insurance, hazard mitigation opportunities, and compliance with environmental and historic preservation laws, including floodplain management issues, that could potentially affect the type and amount of assistance available and the documentation needed. Special Considerations are discussed in Chapter 4. If any Special Considerations issues are anticipated, the appropriate Technical Specialist (Specialist) should be invited to attend the meeting.

Project Formulation
Project formulation is the process of identifying the eligible scope of work and estimating the costs associated with that scope of work for each of the applicant's projects. This section describes the elements of the project formulation process.

Small and Large Projects
A project is a logical method of performing work required as a result of the declared event. The applicant is responsible for identifying all work that is required as a result of the disaster.

To facilitate project review, approval, and funding, projects are divided into small and large projects based on the monetary threshold established in Section 422 of the Stafford Act and elaborated on in 44 CFR §206.203(c). Small projects are those projects with a total estimated cost below the threshold, and large projects are those projects with a total estimated cost at or above the threshold. The threshold is adjusted each fiscal year to account for inflation and published in the Federal Register. For Federal fiscal year 2007, the threshold is $59,700. The determination of the threshold that will be used for a disaster is based on the declaration date of the disaster, regardless of when project approval is made or when the work is performed. Projects are categorized as large or small based on the eligible damage cost of the approved PW. Subsequent PW versions prior to closeout affect categorization as large or small. Funding methods for small and large projects differ as explained below.

Small Projects. Small project funding is based on estimated costs, if actual costs are not yet available. Payment is made on the basis of the initial approved amount, whether estimated or actual. Even if not all funds are expended on the project, the Federal share amount is not changed. Revisions to the initial PWs may be required if there are omissions or changes in scope; revisions to PWs may result in changes in funding level and/or category. Payment methods are described in more detail on page 109 of this guide.

Large Projects. Large project funding is based on documented actual costs. Because of the complexity and nature of most large projects, however, work typically is not complete at the time of FEMA approval. Therefore, most large projects initially are approved based on estimated costs. Funds generally are made available to the applicant on a progress payment basis as work is completed. When all work associated with the project is complete, the State performs a reconciliation of actual costs and transmits the information to FEMA for consideration for final funding adjustments. Payment methods are described in more detail on page 109 of this guide.

The Project Worksheet
An applicant has 60 days following the first substantive meeting, usually the Kickoff Meeting, with FEMA to identify and report damaged facilities to FEMA. The PW is the primary form used to document the location, damage description and dimensions, scope of work, and cost estimate for each project. It is the basis for the grant. The Project Worksheet is available in the PA Forms Library.

The applicant may choose to prepare PWs for small projects and submit them to the PAC Crew Leader. If the applicant opts to prepare small project PWs, the applicant must submit them to the PAC Crew Leader within 60 days of the Kickoff Meeting to go through the validation process, although FEMA or the State may set an earlier deadline. See pages 106-108 for a further discussion of validation. Applicants are strongly encouraged to submit PWs as soon as possible to expedite the assistance process.

If the applicant requires assistance with the preparation of PWs, the PAC Crew Leader may assign a Project Specialist (Project Officer) or Technical Specialist (Specialist) to provide the applicant with technical assistance.

For large projects, a Project Specialist is responsible for working with the applicant to prepare the PW. The Project Specialist may lead a team that includes a representative of the State and one or more Technical Specialists, depending on the type and complexity of the project.

The applicant is responsible for requesting inspections and changes in PWs at any point in the grant process when changes in the project or its costs are identified. The State and FEMA will evaluate the information and, if significant, take appropriate action.

Combining Work and Creating Projects
The applicant, in coordination with the PAC Crew Leader, may combine work items into projects. In this manner, the projects may be organized around the applicant's needs. A project may consist of one item of work, such as repairs to a single structure, or work that occurs at multiple sites, such as repairs to several washouts along a road. Table 7 describes generally accepted methods of combining projects. It is the responsibility of the PAC Crew Leader to ensure that the resulting project is logical and consistent with other criteria described below.

Table 7: Combining Work



Type of Facility

an applicant could combine all sewer pump stations or gravel roads together


an applicant could combine repair of several breaks in a water distribution system together


an applicant may have divided power lines into sectors or a road department into divisions for ease of operations

Method of Work

one contract could be a project or a group of contracts let to one contractor could be a project

Note that emergency work and permanent work may be combined into one project only when the emergency work is incidental to the permanent work. For example, if storm-generated debris must be removed from a building before the building can be repaired, the project could include both the debris removal and the repair work. If multiple sites are combined into one project with a total estimated cost above the large project threshold, that project will be considered a large project. Categories of permanent work may not be combined. A Project Specialist will be assigned to work with the applicant to complete the PW for that project.

Responsible officials should consider preparing separate PWs if Special Considerations (e.g., insurance, hazard mitigation, and environmental and historic preservation issues) are of concern for individual sites. Compliance requirements of a particular Special Considerations issue for the one site could delay funding for other sites, if grouped on one PW.

FEMA regulations state that individual projects of less than $1,000 in estimated costs are not eligible. However, it is acceptable to combine sites less than $1,000 in estimated costs into one PW when the work meets the conditions shown above for combining sites. Separate sites less than $1,000 in estimated costs without a reasonable relationship to other sites may not be combined; they are ineligible.

Identifying the Damaged Facility
If a project is a single site, record the name of the facility and its basic function (if necessary), e.g., City Library or Friendship Park. If the project is comprised of multiple sites, and possibly a combination of emergency work and a category of permanent work, the damaged facility title may be more general. For instance: Hill's County Sector A Debris Removal or Chester Elementary School Campus. For these cases, more specific names and location information should be provided for each site within the Damaged Description and Dimensions area of the PW. Detailed maps and sketches may be necessary to identify each location.

Project Location
The exact location of the damaged facility or area where the disaster costs covered by the project were or will be incurred must be identified. This information should be specific enough to enable other field personnel to locate the facility easily if a site visit is necessary. If possible, the precise latitude and longitude of the damaged site should be included. Location examples are:

Latitude: 25.69387 / Longitude: -80.16359
5520 Harrison Ave N.W., Springdale, Minnesota 55309
0.20 mile west of intersection of County Rd. 22 and County Rd. L
Northwest sector bound by King Street, Main Street, and Shady Canal

When a project combines several damage sites, a general location reference should be included in the Location block and more detailed information to identify specific locations for each individual site should be provided in the Damage Description block. For instance, if debris removal were performed within numerous streets to clear emergency evacuation routes, an entry of "county evacuation route" may be provided in the Location block. Specific roadways would then be identified in the Damage Description section and located on accompanying maps.

Damage Description and Dimensions
When appropriate, a brief description of the facility should introduce this block. For example "Highway 20, a two-lane asphalt surface road," or "Smith Library, a two-story, steel framed, brick-faced building." The cause of damage, a description of the damaged elements of the facility, and the dimensions of the damaged elements must be included on the PW.

All damage must be documented. Damage sustained as a direct result of the disaster event should be differentiated from pre-existing or non-disaster related damage. The specific cause of damage must relate to the incident for which the disaster was declared. It is important to completely describe the cause of damage because it can affect eligibility determinations. For instance, consider the two situations described below.

  • If an uninsured public building located in the 100-year floodplain is damaged by wind, the total cost of repairs is eligible. However, if the same building is damaged by a flood, the amount of assistance would be reduced by the maximum amount of flood insurance available under the National Flood Insurance Program. Both scenarios could occur in the same disaster.

  • Widespread "alligator cracking" of roads generally is not eligible for repair because it indicates damage that was present before the disaster. However, cracking in specific areas due to uplift from soils saturated by floodwaters is eligible for repair.

The damage must be described in terms of the facility, features, or items requiring repair. All damaged elements must be clearly defined in quantitative terms with physical dimensions (such as length, width, depth, and capacity). Without appropriate dimensions of the damaged elements, proper estimates of material quantities cannot be developed.

In some disasters, applicants may perform emergency protective measures work to protect against a threat to improved property before, during, or immediately after the disaster. For such situations, the PW should contain a brief description of the threat and of the threatened improved property.

Scope of Work
The scope of eligible work necessary to repair the damage must be completely described and correspond directly to the cause of damage. The work should be specified as an action with quantifiable (length, width, depth, capacity) and descriptive (brick, wood, asphalt, timber deck bridge) terms. The scope of work should not be described only as "restore to pre-disaster design" If part of the work is completed prior to project approval, the work that has been completed should be distinguished from the work remaining.

Any other information that is pertinent to the scope of work should be documented, such as:

  • eligible codes and standards, providing copies of specific codes and standards, especially if proposed repairs or replacements exceed the pre-disaster design;

  • evidence of pre-disaster damage, such as cracks on a steel bridge covered by rust and corrosion;

  • pre-disaster inspection reports noting deficiencies;

  • ineligible work, maintenance, inactive facilities, responsibilities of Other Federal Agencies, etc.;

  • reference to a Hazard Mitigation Proposal if one is included for the project;

  • indication that the project is an Improved Project, if applicable. A description of the overall project must be included;

  • any special equipment or construction approach, such as very heavy trucks, access roads, staging areas, coffer dams, etc.; and.

  • a description of the larger action, if the project is part of one, e.g., one building within a complex.

If additional damage to the facility is found after the PW is completed, it is necessary to document that damage, show how the damage is disaster-related, and request a re-inspection by FEMA.


Damage Description and Dimensions:
Floodwaters from Fern Creek overtopped Fernwood Drive, a 26-ft. wide roadway with 3-in. asphalt pavement and 8-in. aggregate base, located in the Village of Bolingbrook. The floodwaters washed out a 150-linear foot (LF) by 26-LF section of the roadway pavement and aggregate base. Additionally, the fill embankment-26-ft. wide (top) x 4-ft. high x 42-ft. wide (bottom)-was washed out for a length of 100 LF beneath the damaged section of roadway. Floodwaters damaged 300 LF of steel guardrail (150 LF on each side) along the entire stretch of the washed out road.

Scope of Work:
Replace fill embankment with unclassified fill for 100-LF x 4-ft. (high) x 26-ft. (top width) x 42-ft. (bottom width). Replace 150-LF x 26-ft. x 8-in. base course and 150 LF x 26-ft. x 3-in. asphalt pavement. Remove and replace 300 LF of steel guardrail. Place 100 LF of 1-ft. thick x 2-ft. high riprap along the stream side of the constructed embankment slope in accordance with Village of Bolingbrook Code provision #101A.

Damage Description and Dimensions:
Floodwaters and debris damaged several facilities within Riverside Park in the Town of Springville. Six toilets and four sinks in the public restroom became clogged and rendered unusable. Nine 4x8-foot, redwood picnic tables and four heavy metal barbecue grills with 1x2-foot cooking surfaces were washed away. Floodwaters and floating debris demolished 300 LF of 8-ft high chain link fence. 100 CY of sediment and other debris were scattered over the 125,000 SF area of the park.

Scope of Work:
Repair (unclog and clean) six public restroom toilets and four sinks using 40 hours of force account labor. Replace nine redwood picnic tables and four barbecue grills. Repair and reinstall 300 LF of existing chain link fence. Remove and dispose of 100 CY of debris.

Cost Estimate
FEMA may grant funds on the basis of actual costs or on estimates of work to be completed. The three primary methods for determining costs are time and materials, unit cost, and contracts. If work is completed at the time of the site visit, actual costs should be used.

Work to be completed: If the work has not been initiated, the unit cost method should be used whenever possible.

Work complete: If the work was completed by force account labor, actual personnel, materials, and equipment costs are used (time and materials method.) If a contractor performed the work, reasonable actual contract costs are used.

Time and Materials. The time and materials method is used to summarize actual costs of force account labor, equipment, and materials. Costs must be documented by payroll information, equipment logs or usage records, and other records, such as invoices, receipts, or work orders prepared by the applicant. This method also may be used for work to be completed, if appropriate.

As stated in Chapter 2, FEMA publishes a national listing of equipment rates. FEMA equipment rates, however, do not include operator costs. The applicant should identify operator labor separately. FEMA equipment rates do not apply to contracted or rental equipment, unless the equipment is rented from another public entity. An applicant's own equipment rates or rates established by the State may be used, provided that they meet the criteria outlined in Chapter 2.

Unit Cost. The unit cost method is usually used to develop PWs for work to be completed. Under this method, unit costs are applied to specific elements of the scope of work. Typically unit prices are based on in-place costs, incorporating site preparation, materials, labor, equipment, insurance, overhead, and profit (if by contract) for all activities needed to complete that item of work. For example:

The $14 per linear foot unit cost to replace concrete curb and gutter includes all costs for setting up and breaking down the forms and buying, pouring, and finishing the concrete. In other words, the $14 includes the cost of labor, equipment, and materials. Removal of the damaged old material may be included as a separate work item with its own unit price.

There are several sources that may be used in the preparation of estimates based on unit costs. These sources, provided in their order of preference, include:

State or local data from previously completed projects;
commercial estimating sources; and
FEMA cost codes.

Contracts. Contract pricing is used to determine the cost of work for which the applicant has used labor, equipment, and material from an outside source. In general, and assuming that the contract was awarded following Federal procurement guidelines, contract costs are used for work already complete. In some cases, contract information may be used to estimate costs for work that is just beginning or still underway. If work has not yet begun on a project, but a contract has been bid or let, the contract price can be used.


Damaged Facility: Utility shed
Location: 419 Ocean Avenue South, Williams High School Utility Shed

Damage Description and Dimensions: Wood structure: approximately 75 feet by 75 feet with 15-foot high walls. Painted interior drywall sustained cracking due to the earthquake. Tile flooring was displaced and destroyed. All damaged equipment is covered by the school district's insurance policy.

Scope of Work: Seal cracking and paint drywall on all four 15-foot high x 75-foot wide walls. Remove and replace the entire 75-foot long x 75-foot wide tile floor.

Project Cost:





Unit Price























Cost Estimating Format (CEF)
FEMA uses a cost estimating methodology called the Cost Estimating Format (CEF) for Large Projects to better estimate the total cost of large projects. The CEF is a forward-pricing model that allows FEMA to account for all possible costs associated with projects for which the base costs of labor, materials, and equipment meet or exceed the large project threshold. FEMA uses experienced cost estimators as part of the project formulation team for projects on which the CEF is used.

The CEF should only be used on large projects for which the permanent restorative work is 90% or less complete. Projects greater than 90% complete are not required to be estimated using the CEF. In these cases, the Project Specialist should use the actual costs of the eligible work and extend those costs to cover the remaining work.

The CEF relies on the development of a clear definition of the scope of work that is eligible for Public Assistance. Once this scope of work has been developed, the CEF is applied. Part A represents the base cost of completing the project; it includes the labor, materials, and equipment necessary to complete each item of the scope of work. Parts B through H contain job-specific factors that are added to the base cost determined in Part A. These factors are described below:

Part B includes construction costs not typically itemized in Part A, such as the contractor's supervision costs.

Part C reflects construction cost contingencies and addresses budgetary risks associated with project complexity during the design process.

Part D accounts for the contractor's home-office overhead, insurance, bonds, and profit.

Part E accounts for cost escalation over the life of the project.

Part F includes fees for special reviews, plan checks, and permits.

Part G is the applicant's reserve for change orders, hidden damages, and differing site conditions after construction starts.

Part H accounts for the applicant's cost to manage the design and construction of the project.

The construction-related costs represented by Parts B through H are usually encountered during the course of construction and can normally be expected to occur. However, these construction-related costs may already be a component of the Part A costs. In all cases, the cost estimator determines the makeup of the unit costs used in Part A, before applying one or more of the Parts B through H factors. Costs considered in Part A cannot be duplicated in Parts B through H factors.

Table 8 depicts the hierarchy of preferred pricing with actual costs for the eligible completed work favored first and R.S. Means cost data favored least. FEMA cost data is normally not used when estimating large project costs by means of the CEF.

Table 8: Preferred Pricing When Using the CEF

Types of Costs Used in Part A and Typical Application of Factors

CEF Part

Completed Work

Bid Tab

Local Cost Data

R.S. Means Cost Data




































Y = Part or Factor Normally Applied    * = Part or Factor Normally Not Applied

Specific instructional guidance relating to the application of the CEF should be obtained from FEMA's website. (Go to and select from among the Cost Estimating Format resources.)

The applicant may prepare PWs for small projects without assistance from FEMA or the State. Validation is conducted for those applicants who prepare their own small project PWs. The validation procedures apply only to small projects. Large projects are developed by the Project Specialist, working with the applicant, and are submitted directly to the PAC Crew Leader for review and processing.

The purpose of the small project validation process is to ensure that:

  • the applicant has developed complete, accurate scopes of work;

  • the work and costs included in the PWs are eligible for Public Assistance; and.

  • the cost estimates are accurate and reasonable.

Typically, 20 percent of an applicant's small projects are assessed in the validation process. However, if significant discrepancies are found in the sample, a second sample of 20 percent is assessed. If discrepancies are again found in that sample, the applicant will be provided with technical assistance for review of all small projects.

Unless FEMA or the State has set an earlier deadline, an applicant typically has 60 days from the date of the Kickoff Meeting to submit small project PWs. The 20 percent sample only applies to projects submitted within this 60-day deadline. Small project PWs submitted after 60 days are subject to 100 percent validation. For this reason, applicants are encouraged to submit small project PWs as early as possible.

FEMA validates projects for facility, work, cost, and contract eligibility, and Special Considerations. Typically, a site visit is required during the validation process. Funding for all small projects (except those with Special Considerations) that are in the group submitted for validation will be obligated at one time as long as any required corrections are made. Small projects with Special Considerations will be obligated as each one completes the necessary Special Considerations reviews. Refer to the Public Assistance Applicant Handbook (FEMA 323) and FEMA Policy 9570.6, Standard Operating Procedures on Validation of Small Projects, for additional discussion regarding the validation process.

Facility and Work. FEMA reviews projects to ensure that the damaged facility and work meets all applicable eligibility criteria, as described in Chapter 2. The damage description and scope of work must be accurate and complete. The review ensures that the scope of work is appropriate for the type and dimensions of damage, and that Special Considerations are clearly documented (these considerations are described in Chapter 4).

Cost. Costs must be error-free and eligible. Applicants must provide labor, equipment, and materials summaries for use in the review. Items that will be checked include:

  • identification of persons whose wages are being included in the cost summary, by date, position, and hours worked;

  • separate summaries for overtime and regular time hours with the fringe benefit rates identified for both;

  • a summary of operator hours for any equipment being claimed (operator hours must match or exceed equipment hours; note that regular time hours for emergency work, even though ineligible, are needed to justify equipment usage);

  • identification of volunteer, prison, or reassigned labor; and.

  • copies of purchase orders, invoices, inventory records, or stock tickets with material type and quantity included.

Contract. FEMA reviews contracts to ensure that they adhere to appropriate procurement regulations, are based on reasonable costs, and pertain to the eligible scope of work. The applicant must provide FEMA with a copy of the contract.

Special Considerations. The Technical Specialist who conducts the validation must note possible Special Considerations, such as insurance, hazard mitigation, and compliance with environmental and historic preservation laws, including floodplain management, and report those considerations to the PAC Crew Leader for further review, as necessary. Insurance payments must be resolved prior to applicant closeout.

Grant Processing
FEMA and the State share responsibility for making PA Program funds available to the applicant. FEMA is responsible for determining eligibility, conducting environmental/ historic preservation review, approving projects, and making the Federal share of the approved amount (that is, the grant) available to the State through a process known as obligation. Funds that FEMA has obligated are available to the State via electronic transfer, but reside in a Federal account until the State is ready to award grants to the appropriate applicants. The State cannot request funds more than three business days before the day it disburses them. The State is responsible for providing the State share of the eligible costs and for notifying the applicant that funds are available. The State must use methods and procedures for payment that minimize the time between the transfer of funds to the State and disbursement by the State in accordance with Federal cash management requirements. For applicants requesting Immediate Needs Funding or Expedited Payment, the State should request funds expeditiously to meet the intent of the funding (see pages 90-91).

Methods of Payment
The method of payment to the applicant is dependent on the type of project.

Small Projects. Payment for small projects is made at the time of project approval on the basis of the estimate. The State is required to make payment of the Federal share to the applicant as soon as practicable after FEMA has obligated the funds.

Once all small projects are complete, the State must certify that all work has been completed in accordance with the approved scope of work on the PW, in compliance with FEMA standards and policies, and that all payments due have been made. This certification does not specify the amount spent on the projects, only that the projects were completed. If a small project, including any mitigation work, was not started or was not completed, funds will be de-obligated. If the applicant spends less than the amount approved by FEMA, the Federal share will not be reduced to match actual costs. However, if the applicant incurs costs significantly greater than the total amount approved for all small projects, the applicant may appeal for additional funding.

Note that this opportunity applies only to a net cost overrun for all small projects combined, not to an overrun for an individual project. This policy is based on the fact that small projects with cost underruns typically offset those small projects where the applicant experienced cost overruns. Such a request for a net cost overrun is considered a first appeal, as described on pages 112-114 of this guide.

Large Projects. Large projects are funded on documented actual costs. Because of the nature of most large projects, work typically is not complete at the time of project approval; therefore, FEMA obligates grants based on an estimated cost.

Grant funds may not be immediately drawn down by the State. Instead, progress payments are made to the applicant as actual costs are documented. Upon completion of a large project, an applicant must submit documentation to the State to account for all incurred costs. The State is responsible for ensuring that all incurred costs are associated with the approved scope of work and for certifying that work has been completed in accordance with FEMA standards and policies. The State then submits documentation of project costs to FEMA for review. FEMA may conduct a final inspection as part of this review. Once the review is complete, FEMA determines whether funds should be obligated or deobligated for the project.

Funding Options
Grants for most projects are processed in the manner described above. However, an applicant may elect to use a Public Assistance grant for activities that are outside of the originally approved scope of work. Funding options available to the applicant are described below.

Improved Projects. When performing permanent restoration work on a damaged facility, an applicant may decide to use the opportunity to make improvements to the facility while still restoring its pre-disaster function and at least its pre-disaster capacity. For example, the applicant may decide to lay asphalt on a gravel road or replace a firehouse that originally had two bays with one that has three. Projects that incorporate such improvements are called improved projects. For the most part, these are projects for which the funding for the improvements cannot be separated from the costs for the original repair work.

An applicant may request an improved project for either a small or large project. The improved facility must have the same function and at least the pre-disaster capacity as that of the pre-disaster facility. Time limits that would be associated with repairing the damaged facility to its pre-disaster design apply to the improved project construction. Funding for such projects is limited to the Federal share of the costs that would be associated with repairing or replacing the damaged facility to its pre-disaster design, or to the actual costs of completing the improved project, whichever is less. If eligible repair or replacement costs exceed the original estimate and costs can be separately documented (i.e., if approved costs can be tracked separately from improvement costs), the applicant may appeal the amount of the grant. Any additional costs for complying with codes and standards or compliance with environmental and historic preservation laws, regulations, and EOs (see Chapter 4) required by the construction of the improvements, but not required by the original eligible scope of work, are not eligible. The balance of the funds is a non-Federal responsibility. Funds to construct the improved project can be combined with a grant from another Federal agency; however, Federal grants cannot be used to meet the State or local cost-share requirement unless the legislation for the other grant allows such use, e.g., the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.

If the original facility is being repaired and improvements are being added, FEMA may provide assistance with hazard mitigation under Section 406 of the Stafford Act. These funds must be applied to the original facility. If the improved project involves a complete new facility on the same site or on a different site, FEMA cannot approve Section 406 Hazard Mitigation funding that may otherwise have been eligible for the original facility. See pages 124-127 for further discussion of hazard mitigation. (See Fact Sheet 9580.102, Permanent Relocation.)

The applicant must obtain approval for an improved project from the State prior to the start of construction. Further, any improved project that results in a significant change from the pre-disaster configuration (that is, different location, footprint, function, or size) of the facility must also be approved by FEMA prior to construction to ensure completion of the appropriate environmental and/or historic preservation review.

Alternate Projects. An applicant may determine that the public welfare would not be best served by restoring a damaged facility or its function. In this event, the applicant may use the PA grant for that facility for other eligible purposes. (See FEMA Policy 9525.13, Alternate Projects.) Funds may also be used on more than one alternate project, and an applicant may request an alternate project in lieu of either a small or large project, but only on permanent restoration projects. Funds for debris removal and emergency protective measures cannot be used for alternate projects. The alternate project must serve the same general area that was being served by the originally funded project. The original facility must be rendered safe and secure, sold, or demolished. If an applicant opts to keep a damaged facility for a later or another use, it will not be eligible for FEMA funding in a subsequent disaster unless it is repaired to meet codes and standards, and mitigation measures that would have been approved are applied.

In general, alternate project funding may be used to repair or expand other selected public facilities, to construct new facilities, to demolish the original structure, to purchase equipment, to cover Section 406(d) (Stafford Act) insurance reductions on a facility eligible under the PA Program, or to fund cost-effective hazard mitigation activities, as long as the purpose is to meet a need for governmental services and functions in the disaster area. Alternate projects for PNP applicants must be for facilities that would be eligible for assistance under Section 406 of the Stafford Act. The proposed alternate project may not be located in the regulatory floodway and flood insurance will be required if it is located in the 100-year floodplain. Funds for alternate projects cannot be used for operating costs or to meet the State or local share requirement on other Public Assistance projects or projects that utilize other Federal grants. 406 Hazard Mitigation funds that may have been approved for the original facility cannot be applied to an alternate project. All requests for alternate projects must be made within 12 months of the Kickoff Meeting and must be approved by prior to construction. FEMA must ensure that the proposed project represents an appropriate use of funds and complies with applicable environmental and historic preservation laws.

Funds for alternate projects for publicly owned facilities are limited to 90 percent of the approved Federal share of the estimated eligible costs associated with repairing the damaged facility to its pre-disaster design, or to 90 percent of the Federal share of actual costs of completing the alternate project, whichever is less. Funds for alternate projects for PNP applicants are limited to 75 percent of the approved Federal share. The costs of complying with laws, regulations, and EOs on the damaged facility are considered project costs for purposes of calculating the grant. Any additional costs for complying with codes and standards or compliance with environmental and historic preservation laws, regulations, and EOs (see Chapter 4) for the alternate facility are not eligible. Mitigation funding cannot be included in the calculation of the amount of alternate project funding. A sample calculation follows:


eligible damage

- 30,000

insurance reduction


new eligible amount

x .9

to adjust for 10% reduction*

$ 90,000

new project amount

x .75

Federal cost share

$ 67,500

maximum amount of Federal funds applicant may receive. Applicant must spend at least $90,000 on the approved alternate projects to receive $67,500 of Federal funds.

* except for projects of PNP organizations, which are reduced 25%

The appeals process is the opportunity for applicants to request reconsideration of FEMA determinations regarding application for or the provision of assistance. There are two levels of appeal. The first level appeal is to the RA. The second level appeal is to FEMA Headquarters.

Typical appeals involve the following:

  • an entity is not an eligible applicant;

  • a facility, an item of work, or a project is not eligible for disaster assistance;

  • approved costs are less than the applicant believes to be necessary to complete the work;

  • a requested time extension was not granted;

  • a portion of the cost claimed for the work is not eligible;

  • the applicant disagrees with the approved Scope of Work on the PW; or.

  • the applicant incurs a significant net cost overrun on small projects.

The applicant must file an appeal with the State within 60 days of the applicant's receipt of a notice of the action that is being appealed. The applicant must provide documentation to support the appeal. This documentation should explain why the applicant believes the original determination is wrong and the amount of adjustment being requested. Applicants appealing for a net small project overrun must make application within 60 days of completion of the last small project and must include cost data on all small projects. The State reviews the appeal documentation and request additional information if necessary. The State then prepares a written recommendation on the merits of the appeal and forwards that recommendation to FEMA within 60 days of its receipt of the appeal letter or receipt of additional information that it had requested. The State need not endorse the appeal position but must forward all appeals it receives.

The RA reviews the appeal and within 90 days takes one of two actions:

  • render a decision on the appeal and inform the State of the decision; or.

  • request additional information.

Normally, the applicant has 60 days to provide any additional information, and the RA provides a decision on the appeal within 90 days of receipt of that information. If the appeal is granted, the RA takes appropriate action, such as approving additional funding or sending a Project Specialist to meet with the applicant to determine additional eligible funding.

If an appeal is denied by the RA, the applicant may submit a second appeal following the procedures included in the RA's denial. The applicant must submit the second appeal to the State within 60 days of receiving the RA's denial. The State must forward the appeal with a written recommendation to the RA within 60 days of receiving the applicant's letter. The RA reviews the information provided with the appeal and requests additional information if required. The RA forwards the appeal with the recommendation for action to FEMA Headquarters as soon as practicable.

FEMA Headquarters reviews the appeal and within 90 days renders a decision or requests additional information from the applicant. In an unusual case involving highly technical issues, FEMA may request an independent scientific or technical analysis by a group or person having expertise in the subject matter of the appeal. Upon receipt of requested information from the applicant and any other requested reports, FEMA renders a determination on the appeal within 90 days. Any required actions, such as obligation or deobligation of funds, are taken by the RA. See 44 CFR §206.206 for the process description.

The PA Program is considered programmatically closed when FEMA assures that all of the grants awarded under the PA Program for a given disaster meet the statutory and regulatory requirements governing the program. To achieve programmatic closure, FEMA ensures that all funds have been obligated. This includes any compliance with environmental and historic preservation requirements and any insurance purchase requirements. In addition, FEMA must resolve any appeals before programmatic closure is complete. With programmatic closure, FEMA has a reasonably well defined understanding of the total amount of Federal funds that will be obligated for the disaster.

Financial reconciliation of the grant, or grant closure, occurs later, when FEMA and the State reach agreement that all applicable administrative actions related to the PA Program are complete and all program funds related to the disaster have been reconciled. At that point, all PA Program projects have been completed, the State has awarded all grant funds and submitted its final expenditure report to FEMA, and FEMA has adjusted the funding level for the program, as appropriate. Once grant closure occurs, no additional actions related to the program may occur other than possible audits. FEMA may conduct an audit of the program during or after grant closure.

June 2007
This guide describes FEMA's Public Assistance Program's basic provisions and application procedures. Because this document is not exhaustive and the provisions are subject to modification, the information contained herein should be verified with FEMA PA Program officials before becoming the basis for decision making.

Last Updated: 
02/13/2015 - 14:40
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