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Request for Public Assistance

Appeal Brief Appeal Letter Appeal Analysis

Appeal Brief

Disaster4542
ApplicantOconee Joint Regional Sewer Authority
Appeal TypeSecond
PA ID#073-05AEB-00
PW ID#RPA
Date Signed2021-08-23T16:00:00

Summary Paragraph

From April 12-13, 2020, severe storms, tornados, and straight-line winds impacted Oconee County, South Carolina.  The President issued a major disaster declaration (FEMA-4542-DR-SC) on May 1, 2020.  The South Carolina Emergency Management Division (Grantee) requested a time extension for Request for Public Assistance (RPA) submissions due to the effects of the disaster, the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic response, and civil unrest.  The Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) for FEMA-4542-DR-SC approved the request, extending the deadline for RPA submissions to June 30, 2020.  On August 4, 2020, the Oconee Joint Regional Sewer Authority (Applicant) submitted an RPA, acknowledging the request was late but stating that it had mistakenly requested Public Assistance under a separate declaration.  The Grantee forwarded the RPA to FEMA, expressing support for the request.  The FCO denied the Applicant’s RPA because it was submitted after the deadline.  The Applicant submitted a first appeal, again stating that it mistakenly submitted the RPA under the wrong declaration, and that this error was compounded by a lack of in-person communication due to the Pandemic.  The Grantee supported the appeal, stating that the conditions of the Pandemic constituted extenuating circumstances.  The FEMA Region IV Regional Administrator denied the appeal, finding that neither the Applicant nor the Grantee had demonstrated extenuating circumstances.  The Applicant submitted a second appeal through the Grantee; both parties reiterate previous appeal arguments.

Authorities and Second Appeals

  • 44 C.F.R. § 206.202(b)-(c), (f)(2).
  • PAPPG, at 130.
  • N. Miami Beach Med. Ctr., FEMA-4337-DR-FL, at 3.
  • Kapoho Kai Water Ass’n, FEMA-4366-DR-HI, at 2-3.

Headnotes

  • FEMA may extend the deadline for submitting an RPA when the grantee justifies and makes a request for such extension in writing.  Justification must be based on extenuating circumstances beyond the applicant’s or grantee’s control.
    • Both the Applicant and Grantee assert that reduced in-person communication due to the COVID-19 Pandemic led to confusion and, ultimately, the untimely RPA submission.
    • However, confusion on the Applicant’s part does not constitute extenuating circumstances beyond its or the Grantee’s control.

Conclusion

Neither the Applicant nor the Grantee have demonstrated that extenuating circumstances beyond either party’s control impacted the submission of the RPA for FEMA-4542-DR-SC.  Therefore, this appeal is denied.

 

Appeal Letter

Kim Stenson

Director

South Carolina Emergency Management Division

2779 Fish Hatchery Road

West Columbia, SC 29172

 

Re:  Second Appeal – Oconee Joint Regional Sewer Authority, PA ID: 073-05AEB-00, FEMA-4542-DR-SC, RPA – Request for Public Assistance

 

Dear Mr. Stenson:

This is in response to a letter from your office dated May 24, 2021, which transmitted the referenced second appeal on behalf of Oconee Joint Regional Sewer Authority (Applicant).  The Applicant is appealing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) denial of a Request for Public Assistance (RPA).

As explained in the enclosed analysis, I have determined that neither the Applicant nor the South Carolina Emergency Management Division (Grantee) have demonstrated that extenuating circumstances beyond either party’s control impacted the untimely submission of the RPA for FEMA-4542-DR-SC.  Therefore, this appeal is denied.

Please inform the Applicant of my decision.  This determination is the final decision on this matter pursuant to 44 C.F.R. § 206.206, Appeals.

 

                                                                         Sincerely, 

                                                                             /S/

                                                                          Ana Montero

                                                                         Division Director

                                                                         Public Assistance Division

 

Enclosure

cc:  Gracia Szczech

Regional Administrator

FEMA Region IV

 

Appeal Analysis

Background

From April 12-13, 2020, severe storms, tornados, and straight-line winds impacted South Carolina.  The President issued a major disaster declaration (FEMA-4542-DR-SC) on May 1, 2020, authorizing Public Assistance (PA) for applicants in Oconee County, among other areas.  On May 29, 2020, the South Carolina Emergency Management Division (Grantee) requested a time extension for applicants in Oconee County and other areas to submit Requests for Public Assistance (RPA).  The Grantee stated that the effects of the disaster, the COVID-19 Pandemic response, and civil unrest constituted extenuating circumstances, which presented challenges to disaster response coordination.  The Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) for FEMA-4542-DR-SC agreed and granted a time extension for the RPA submission deadline, to June 30, 2020.

The Oconee Joint Regional Sewer Authority (Applicant) submitted an RPA under FEMA-4542-DR-SC on August 4, 2020.  The Applicant acknowledged that the request was late and stated it had inadvertently requested PA under a separate declaration (FEMA-4479-DR-SC).[1]  On August 12, 2020, the FCO denied the Applicant’s RPA because it was submitted after the deadline.

 

First Appeal

The Applicant submitted a first appeal to the Grantee, stating that it mistakenly submitted the RPA under the wrong declaration (FEMA-4479-DR-SC instead of FEMA-4542-DR-SC).  The Applicant asserted that a lack of in-person communication due to the COVID-19 Pandemic compounded its miscommunication with FEMA and its own inexperience led it to initially believe it had complied with the RPA submission requirements for both disasters.  Therefore, the Applicant stated that the situation surrounding its late RPA submission constituted extenuating circumstances, and FEMA should approve its request for FEMA-4542-DR-SC. 

In a transmittal letter dated November 24, 2020, the Grantee expressed support for the appeal.  It noted that the Applicant experienced three declared disasters between February and April 2020 (FEMA-4479-DR-SC, FEMA-4492-DR-SC (the COVID-19 Pandemic declaration in South Carolina), and FEMA-4542-DR-SC), and stated that this led to confusion on the Applicant’s part.  The Grantee asserted that the Applicant had demonstrated that the late submission of the RPA for FEMA-4542-DR-SC occurred under extenuating circumstances due to the conditions of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

On February 1, 2021, the FEMA Region IV Regional Administrator (RA) denied the first appeal.  FEMA found that neither the Applicant nor the Grantee had demonstrated that extenuating circumstances prevented the Applicant from submitting the RPA by the deadline, and noted the Grantee’s responsibility “to ensure that all potential applicants are aware of PA requirements.”[2]

 

Second Appeal

The Applicant submitted a second appeal on April 2, 2021.  The Applicant reiterates its first appeal arguments and again requests FEMA approve the RPA for FEMA-4542-DR-SC due to extenuating circumstances.  In a May 24, 2021 appeal transmittal letter, the Grantee also reiterates its statements from the first appeal and recommends FEMA grant the appeal.

 

Discussion

If an applicant wishes to seek PA funding, it must first submit an RPA to FEMA through the grantee within 30 days of the respective area being designated in the disaster declaration.[3]  The grantee is responsible for providing technical advice and assistance to all eligible applicants, ensuring all potential applicants are aware of available PA, submitting documents necessary for the award of grants, and sending the completed RPA to the RA within the 30-day time period.[4]  FEMA may extend the deadline for submitting an RPA when the grantee justifies and makes a request for such extension in writing.[5]  Justification must be based on extenuating circumstances beyond the applicant’s or grantee’s control.[6]

The deadline for applicants to submit RPAs after the FCO’s extension for FEMA-4542-DR-SC was June 30, 2020.  The Applicant submitted the RPA on August 4, 2020, which was 35 days after the deadline.  At the time of submission, the Applicant acknowledged that the request was untimely.[7]  Both the Applicant and Grantee assert that reduced in-person communication due to the COVID-19 Pandemic led to confusion and, ultimately, the untimely RPA submission.[8]  However, confusion on the Applicant’s part does not constitute extenuating circumstances beyond its or the Grantee’s control.[9]

 

Conclusion

Neither the Applicant nor the Grantee have demonstrated that extenuating circumstances beyond either party’s control impacted the submission of the RPA for FEMA-4542-DR-SC.  Therefore, this appeal is denied.

 

[1] Letter from Exec. Dir., Oconee Joint Reg’l Sewer Auth., to Pub. Assistance Operations Coordinator, S.C. Emergency Mgmt. Div. (SCEMD), at 1 (Aug. 4, 2020) [hereinafter RPA].

[2] FEMA First Appeal Analysis, Oconee Joint Reg’l Sewer Auth., FEMA-4542-DR-SC, at 2.  On first appeal, FEMA stated that the RPA submission deadline was May 30, 2020; Id. at 1.  However, the FCO approved the Grantee’s request to extend the submission deadline to June 30, 2020.

[3] Title 44 Code of Federal Regulations (44 C.F.R.) § 206.202(c) (2019); Public Assistance Program and Policy Guide, FP 104-009-2, at 130 (Apr. 2018).

[4] 44 C.F.R. § 206.202(b)-(c).

[5] Id. § 206.202(f)(2).

[6] Id.

[7] RPA, at 1 (stating “[p]lease accept this late submission of our Request for Public Assistance (RPA) for DR-4542”).

[8] E.g., Letter from Exec. Dir., Oconee Joint Reg’l Sewer Auth., to PA Program Mgr., SCEMD, at 3 (Apr. 2, 2021) (“with an ongoing pandemic … this ‘miscommunication’ and the ‘Applicant’s’ lack of knowledge regarding these matters would have been avoided if there was one on one in person communication [sic]”).

[9] FEMA Second Appeal Analysis, N. Miami Beach Med. Ctr., FEMA-4337-DR-FL, at 3 (Sept. 16, 2020); FEMA Second Appeal Analysis, Kapoho Kai Water Ass’n, FEMA-4366-DR-HI, at 2-3 (Nov. 6, 2020) (finding that “[t]he Applicant’s lack of knowledge and lack of understanding of the PA Program are not circumstances outside of its or the Grantee’s control”).