FEMA Public Assistance: Local, State, Tribal and Non-Profit

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Public Assistance (PA) Program reimburses government agencies and non-profits for eligible disaster related costs.

Table of Contents

Public Assistance Disaster Declarations

Active Declarations

On March 28, 2020, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts received a Major Disaster Declaration (FEMA-4496-DR-MA) for all counties in Massachusetts for the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic. See COVID-19 Federal Disaster Declaration for info and guidance.

FEMA-EM-3599-MA – Hurricane Lee September 15-17, 2023

Previous Disasters

FEMA-DR-4651-MA - January 28-29 2022 Severe Winter Storm and Snowstorm

FEMA-DR-4372-MA - March 2-3, 2018 Severe Winter Storm & Flooding

FEMA-DR-4379-MA - March 13-14, 2018 Severe Winter Storm

For information on historical declared disasters in Massachusetts, see FEMA Disaster Declarations.

About the Public Assistance Program

After a disaster, MEMA works with local, state, and federal partners to identify assistance programs that may be available.

FEMA’s PA Grant Program reimburses state, local, and tribal government and certain types of private non-profit organizations (applicants) for certain types of disaster-related costs, including eligible costs for debris removal, emergency protective measures, and the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged publicly owned facilities and the facilities of some Private Non-Profit (PNP) organizations. The PA Program also encourages protection of damaged buildings from future events through post disaster hazard mitigation grants.

Reimbursements are typically 75% of eligible costs, with the remaining 25% cost being the applicant’s responsibility.

Public Assistance Grant Process

Initial Steps:

After a disaster event that causes significant damage, MEMA works with FEMA, local, and state agencies to begin the Public Assistance (PA) Grant Program process.

  • Initial Damage Assessment (IDA): MEMA conducts a pre-assessment, or initial damage assessment with local and state agencies to determine the extent of the event’s damage and costs.
  • Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA): If needed, state and federal officials may conduct a Preliminary Damage Assessment, a joint assessment used to determine the extent of an event's damage. The State uses the results of the PDA to determine the extent of damages and costs throughout the entire state. If the total of these costs for both the affected counties and the state are more than the FEMA Public Assistance (PA) Thresholds FY2021, a governor's request may be made.
  • Governor’s Request: The Governor uses the PDA results to decide if the State will request a federal Major or Emergency Disaster Declaration from the President.
  • Declaration: The President will read the Governor’s disaster request and may declare that a major disaster or emergency exists. If it does, Public Assistance Grant Program funding becomes available.

Post Declaration:

When a federal Disaster Declaration is granted, other things take place as part of the program:

  • Applicants’ Briefing: After a disaster declaration, MEMA will announce details of scheduled applicant briefings. Agencies or organizations who may apply for PA attend to learn about the eligibility requirements and what costs may be reimbursed by the federal government.
  • Request for Public Assistance: Potential applicants complete an application to make an official request for PA.
  • Recovery Scoping Meeting: Federal and/or state staff meet with each applicant approved to receive PA. Staff review details of costs and damage related work and answer questions specific to the applicant.
  • Project formulation: The applicant provides detailed documentation on scope(s) of work and cost(s) incurred for the project.
  • Project review: Federal and state officials review documentation and validate costs that are eligible for reimbursement.
  • Obligation: FEMA funds are sent to the State and the State pays each applicant through a state contract process.
  • Project closeout: Applicants submit all required documentation and certify all work was completed in accordance with necessary federal, state and local laws and regulations.

Public Assistance Grant Eligibility

Eligibility: FEMA makes final determinations about eligibility as it relates to applicants, facilities, work and costs.

Applicant Eligibility: The Public Assistance program provides cost reimbursement aid to local governments (state, local, municipal authorities, and school districts) and certain private non-profit agencies.

Facility Eligibility: Generally, buildings, equipment and certain natural sites owned by a public or private non-profit entity are considered eligible.

Work Eligibility:

BASIC CRITERIA - Must be required as a result of the Presidentially-declared Major Disaster or Emergency Declaration, be located within the designated disaster area, be the legal responsibility of an eligible applicant, and no other federal agency may 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.

Cost Eligibility:

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 – Costs for contractors to provide reasonable and necessary labor may be reimbursed. All contracting and procurement laws must be followed. Contracting is the responsibility of the applicant.

Public Assistance Delivery Model Process

FEMA has developed a new Public Assistance grant administration process in order to encourage transparency, consistency, and accountability. This new delivery model introduced new roles and processes, including:

  • Grants Portal: The web-based grants management system where all grant related documentation will flow. The Portal will be used to submit the Request for Public Assistance (RPA), identify and upload costs, upload required backup documentation, and track the status of all projects.
  • Program Delivery Manager (PDMG): The single FEMA point of contact throughout the life of an applicant’s projects. This person will coordinate the grant process, including conducting various meetings, scheduling site inspections, and ensuring all required documentation is uploaded.
  • Exploratory Call: The first contact between the applicant and PDMG. A brief introductory phone call designed to determine the extent of disaster costs and schedule the Recovery Scoping Meeting (RSM).
  • Recovery Scoping Meeting: The first substantive, in-person meeting between PDMG, applicant, and state. Costs will be discussed in detail, and required documentation will be provided to be uploaded to the Grants Portal.
  • Consolidated Resource Center (CRC): Nationwide center of full-time FEMA project writing staff and other program specialists. FEMA projects are written and validated at the CRC.
  • Processing Lanes: FEMA has developed 3 lanes in order to expedite processing of projects.
    • Work Completed Lane: Projects where work has been 100% completed and all documentation submitted. Projects move quickly through this lane.
    • Standard Lane: Projects that are less than 100% complete require site inspections and will be written based on an estimate.
    • Specialized Lane: Projects less than 100% complete that require a degree of technical or specialized expertise. These projects also require site inspections and will be written based on an estimate.
  • Site Inspectors (SI): FEMA has refined the role of site inspectors. Full-time site inspection staff will view, validate, and develop site inspection reports for all incomplete work/damages.

FEMA’s New Public Assistance Delivery Model became mandatory for all disasters declared on or after September 13, 2017.

Public Assistance Program Resources

FEMA's Public Assistance: Policy and Guidance includes Public Assistance Program and Policy Guide (PAPPG) for disasters declared after January 1, 2016 as well as 9500 series guidance for disasters declared before January 1, 2016.

Stafford Act

44 CFR

2 CFR 200

FEMA Schedule of Equipment Rates

FEMA Procurement Guidance for Recipients and Subrecipients

FEMA Procurement Disaster Assistance Team Field Manual - 2019

Additional Resources

Debris Guidance

MEMA Forms for Public Assistance Projects

Webinar Training Guides


Video: How to Fill Out the MEMA State Contact Package

This playlist of videos reviews MEMA’s State Contract Package that is sent to applicants of FEMA’s Public Assistance grant program. The videos go through each form with instructions and brief description of each form: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLrVLTAWt2GocO3cP0PG3QCN6MFuM87T7V

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