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FEMA - Public Assistance Fact Sheet

The Public Assistance Program provides grants to state and local governments and certain non-profit entities to assist them with the response to and recovery from disasters. Specifically, the program provides assistance for debris removal, emergency protective measures, and permanent restoration of infrastructure.

Eligible Applicants: Eligible applicants include state governments, local governments and any other political subdivision of the state, Native American tribes and Alaska Native Villages. Certain private non-profit (PNP) organizations may also receive assistance. Eligible PNPs include educational, utility, emergency, medical, temporary or permanent custodial care facilities (including those for the aged and disabled), irrigation, museums, zoos, community centers, libraries, homeless shelters, senior citizen centers, rehabilitation, shelter workshops and health and safety services and other PNP facilities that provide essential services of a governmental nature to the general public. PNPs that provide "critical services" (power, water - including water provided by an irrigation organization or facility, sewer, wastewater treatment, communications and emergency medical care) may apply directly to FEMA for a disaster grant. All other PNPs must first apply to the Small Business Administration (SBA) for a disaster loan. If the PNP is declined for a SBA loan or the loan does not cover all eligible damages, the applicant may reapply for FEMA assistance.

Public Assistance Process: As soon as practicable after the declaration, the state, assisted by FEMA, conducts the Applicant Briefings for state, local and PNP officials to inform them of the assistance available and how to apply for it. A Request for Public Assistance must be filed with the state within 30 days after the area is designated eligible for assistance. Following the Applicant's Briefing, a Kickoff Meeting is conducted where damages will be discussed, needs assessed, and a plan of action put in place. A combined federal/state/local team proceeds with Project Formulation, which is the process of documenting the eligible facility, the eligible work, and the eligible cost for fixing the damages to every public or PNP facility identified by State or local representatives. The team prepares a Project Worksheet (PW) for each project.

Public Assistance Projects Categories:

  • Category A: Debris removal
  • Category B: Emergency protective measures
  • Category C: Road Systems and Bridges
  • Category D: Water control facilities
  • Category E: Public buildings and contents
  • Category F: Public utilities
  • Category G: Parks, recreational, and other Items

Small Projects: Projects falling below a certain threshold are considered "small." The threshold is adjusted annually for inflation. For fiscal year 2012, that threshold is $66,400. For small projects, payment of the federal share of the estimate is made upon approval of the project and notification is required upon completion of the project.

Large Projects: For large projects, payment is made on the basis of actual costs determined after the project is completed; although interim payments may be made as necessary. Once FEMA obligates funds to the state, further management of the assistance, including disbursement to sub-grantees is the responsibility of the state. FEMA will continue to monitor the recovery progress to ensure the timely delivery of eligible assistance and compliance with the law and regulations.

The federal share of assistance is not less than 75% of the eligible cost for emergency measures and permanent restoration. The grantee (usually the state) determines how the no-federal share (up to 25%) is split with the sub-grantees (eligible applicants).

FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.