When an Applicant requests public assistance for disaster-related work, grant amounts are based on actual costs if the work was completed at the time of the request. However, for work that has not been completed at the time of the request, a Cost Estimate must be used.
Typically, these estimates are prepared using unit costs. With this method, the project is broken down into elements based on the quantities of material that must be used to complete the work. For example, a culvert repair may be broken down into linear feet of pipe, cubic yards of fill, and square feet of pavement. The estimate for each of these items is a cost per unit that includes all labor, equipment, and material necessary to install that item (referred to as an "in-place" cost).
FEMA has developed a list of unit costs for typical disaster repairs that may be used for estimating total costs. Alternatively, unit cost data developed by State or local governments may be used, if appropriate. Commercially available cost-estimating guides or data from local vendors and contractors may also be used. It may be necessary for FEMA to review cost data not based on established cost codes before approving a grant.
For large or complex projects, it may be necessary for the Applicant to prepare a detailed design of the restoration work before a viable cost estimate can be developed. In such cases, a grant for engineering and design services is approved first. Once the design is complete, a cost estimate for the work is prepared or actual bids for the work may be used as the basis for the grant.
Costs for managing a project may also be included if the project is sufficiently large or complex to require them. Most small projects do not require project management above the level of a first-level supervisor.
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