After a disaster, MEMA works with local, state, and federal partners to assess damage and determine what assistance programs, if any, may be available. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Public Assistance (PA) may reimburse government agencies and non-profits for disaster response and recovery costs after a disaster declaration.
FEMA’s PA Grant Program is designed to provide supplemental financial assistance in the form of reimbursements to state, local, and tribal government and certain types of private non-profit organizations whose buildings or infrastructures were damaged by a disaster. The program can assist with costs associated with response and recovery from major disasters or emergencies after a presidential declaration. This can include debris removal, emergency protective measures, and the repair, replacement or restoration of disaster-damaged, publicly owned facilities and the facilities of certain Private Non-Profit (PNP) organizations. The PA Program also encourages protection of these damaged facilities from future events by providing assistance through post disaster hazard mitigation grants.
The federal share of assistance typically covers 75% of the eligible costs for emergency measures and permanent restoration. The remaining 25% non-federal share is generally the responsibility of the individual program applicant. The PA Program is administered through a coordinated effort between the FEMA, MEMA (recipient), and the applicants (subrecipients).
- January 2015 Severe Winter Storm, Snowstorm & Flooding Public Assistance (FEMA-4214-DR)
- February 2013 Severe Winter Storm, Snowstorm, and Flooding (DR-4110)
- October 2012 Hurricane Sandy (DR-4097)
For information on historical declared disasters in Massachusetts, see FEMA Disaster Declarations.
The Public Assistance Grant Program Process
After a natural or man-made event that causes extensive damage, MEMA coordinates with FEMA and impacted local and state agencies to begin the Public Assistance (PA) Grant Program process.
- Initial Damage Assessment (IDA): The process generally starts with the state (MEMA) conducting a pre-assessment, or initial damage assessment with impacted local and state agencies to determine the scope and magnitude of an event.
- Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA): If needed, state and federal officials may conduct a Preliminary Damage Assessment, a joint assessment used to determine the magnitude and impact of an event's damage. The State uses the results of the PDA to determine the extent of damages and economic impact on the entire state. If the total of these costs for both the affected counties and the state exceed the amount of assistance the state is able to provide, as established by the current fiscal year threshold developed by FEMA (which is adjusted annually based on the consumer price index), the incident may then become eligible for a Public Assistance declaration.
- Governor’s Request: The Governor uses the PDA results to determine if the situation is beyond the combined capabilities of the state and local resources, verify the need for supplemental Federal assistance, and, if appropriate, to create a request for a federal Major Disaster Declaration to the President.
- Declaration: Based on the Governor's request, the President may declare that a major disaster or emergency exists, thus activating various federal programs, such as the Public Assistance Grant Program to assist in the response and recovery effort. Not all programs, however, are activated for every disaster. The determination of which assistance programs are activated is based on the needs found during the damage assessment and any subsequent information that may be discovered.
If the request for a federal Disaster Declaration is granted, additional steps take place as part of the program:
- Applicants’ Briefing: Agencies or organizations who may apply for PA attend to learn about the eligibility requirements and what costs will be reimbursed by the federal government (The federal government pays at least 75% of approved costs/projects. The municipality or organization is responsible for remaining costs.) After a disaster declaration, MEMA will announce details of scheduled applicant briefings.
- Request for Public Assistance: An eligible applicant completes an application to make an official request for PA.
- Kickoff Meeting: State and/or federal officials meet with individual applicants who have been approved to receive PA. Officials review details of approved projects and answer questions specific to the applicant and/or the project.
- Project formulation: The applicant provides detailed documentation on scope(s) of work and cost(s) incurred for the project.
- Project review: Federal officials review documentation and validate expenses that are eligible for reimbursement.
- Obligation: FEMA funds are forwarded to the State, and the State pays the individual applicants using a state contract process.
- Project closeout: Applicants submit all required documentation and certify work was completed in accordance with all pertinent federal, state and local laws and regulations.
The Public Assistance program provides cost reimbursement aid to local governments (state, local, municipal authorities, and school districts) and certain private non-profit agencies (educational institutions, utilities, emergency services, medical facilities, custodial care facilities and others that provide health and safety services of a governmental nature). All must be open to the general public and have IRS or state certification of their private, non-profit status.
Generally, buildings, works, systems, built or manufactured equipment and certain improved and maintained natural features which are owned by a public or private non-profit entity are considered eligible.
BASIC CRITERIA - Must be required as a result of the Presidentially-declared Major Disaster, be located within the designated disaster area, be the legal responsibility of an eligible applicant, and no other federal agency may have statutory authority to provide funding.
DEBRIS REMOVAL - When in the public interest to eliminate an immediate threat to life, public health and safety; OR eliminate an immediate threat of significant damage to improved property; OR to ensure the economic recovery of the affected community.
EMERGENCY PROTECTIVE MEASURES - Measures taken to save lives, protect public health and safety, and to protect improved property. Must eliminate or lessen the threat.
PERMANENT RESTORATION - Restore the disaster-damaged parts of the facility to pre-disaster condition and function, plus upgrade restored parts to meet current codes and standards. Road systems, water control facilities, buildings and equipment, public utility systems, and parks / recreation facilities are the general categories of property eligible. In certain circumstances FEMA may replace a facility if cost of repair is more than 50% of replacement cost.
FORCE ACCOUNT - (Applicant's own labor, equipment, and materials) - Equipment use at FEMA use rates, materials at applicant's cost, labor at applicant's cost including fringe benefits. The cost of regular time labor of permanent employees performing debris removal and emergency protective measures is not eligible.
CONTRACT - Reasonable and necessary costs to perform required and FEMA-approved work. All contracting and procurement laws must be followed. Contracting is the responsibility of the applicant.
FEMA makes final determinations about eligibility as it relates to applicants, facilities, work and costs.
Elements of a Project Worksheet (9580.5) file size 1MB
Private Nonprofit (PNP) Facility Eligibility (9521.3) file size 3MB
Eligible Sand Replacement on Public Beaches (9580.8) file size 1MB
Debris Contracting Guidance (9580.201) file size 3MB
Debris Removal from Waterways (9523.5) file size 2MB
Public Assistance Forms:
- Request For Public Assistance (RPA)
- Withdrawal Form
- Decline Form
- Time Extension Form
- Quarterly Reporting Form
Project Worksheet Forms:
- Project Workbook (Excel 1997-2003)
- Project Workbook (Excel 2007 & 2010) file size 3MB
- FEMA SCHEDULE OF EQUIPMENT RATES (2015)
- Sample Direct Administrative Cost Tracking Form
Private Nonprofit (PNP) Forms: