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Public Assistance

Not only do individuals need federal assistance after a disaster, so do state and local governments. This also helps citizens indirectly since this federal aid may reduce the pressure on the state or local government to raise taxes to pay for the damage and destruction. The Stafford Act specifies how the federal government will help a state or local government to recover after they have received damages. Helping the government to recover is called public assistance or PA. During the federal declaration process, a decision based upon evidence of damage regarding which categories of assistance will be offered. FEMA typically announces approvals of emergency work first and approves permanent work later based upon need.

To facilitate the processing of Public Assistance Program grants, FEMA has divided disaster-related work into two broad Categories of Work, Emergency Work and Permanent Work. These categories are further divided into the seven categories shown below and described in more detail elsewhere in this digest under the appropriate subject.

Emergency Work

Category A: Debris Removal

Clearance of trees and woody debris; certain building wreckage; damaged/ destroyed building contents; sand, mud, silt, and gravel; vehicles; and other disaster-related material deposited on public and, in very limited cases, private property.

Category B: Emergency Protective Measures

Measures taken before, during, and after a disaster to eliminate or reduce an immediate threat to life, public health, or safety, or to eliminate or reduce an immediate threat of significant damage to improved public and private property through cost-effective measures.

Permanent Work

Category C: Roads and Bridges

Repair of roads, bridges, and associated features, such as shoulders, ditches, culverts, lighting, and signs.

Category D: Water Control Facilities

Repair of drainage channels, pumping facilities, and some irrigation facilities. Repair of levees, dams, and flood control channels fall under Category D, but the eligibility of these facilities is restricted.

Category E: Buildings and Equipment

Repair or replacement of buildings, including their contents and systems; heavy equipment; and vehicles.

Category F: Utilities

Repair of water treatment and delivery systems; power generation facilities and distribution facilities; sewage collection and treatment facilities; and communications.

Category G: Parks, Recreational Facilities, and Other Facilities

Repair and restoration of parks, playgrounds, pools, cemeteries, mass transit facilities and beaches. This category is used also for any work or facility that cannot be adequately defined by Categories A-F.

Public Assistance Timeline

     Public assistance, or federal grants for state and local government, municipalities, and some private non-profit organizations, is accomplished in the recovery phase in a series of sequential steps. This program may take two to three years to complete:

STEP ONE:  Local emergency management officials (often accompanied by a TEMA area coordinator or other official) must perform a "windshield survey" of the damaged area. This survey provides an estimate of damage totals to determine if the county jurisdiction meets Stafford Act requirements for requesting a presidential disaster declaration (state and county thresholds must be met (see Recovery Tab).

STEP TWO:  TEMA Director determines that the disaster area meets the requirements for requesting a federal declaration and requests that FEMA provide preliminary damage assessment teams to confirm the damage. The PDA is accomplished by trained FEMA personnel (accompanied by TEMA and local officials).

STEP THREE:  After the President signs the federal declaration, the Governor is notified and announces the categories of approval. The Governor then announces the types of assistance each county will receive.

STEP FOUR:  TEMA then will arrange for an applicant briefing for each county. Applicant briefings include an explanation of the program and how to complete an application for the PA grant.

STEP FIVE:  The applicant briefing is followed by a kickoff meeting. Local officials must identify the damage and propose projects to repair or replace the damaged property. Project worksheets must be completed and sent to the state (TEMA) for review and forwarded to FEMA for approval.

STEP SIX:  Upon PW approval, FEMA may then obligate funds to the state. An appropriate contract must be in place before payment can be made by the state to a local jurisdiction. The state may require that work be completed before some payments will be made, such as long term projects.


SBA Loans

The U. S. Small Business Administration can approve loans for businesses on uncompensated losses for uninsured losses and for which no grant has been provided.

Business Physical Disaster Loans - repair or replace disaster damaged property, including real estate, inventories, supplies, machinery and equipment to include charities, churches, private universities, etc. Collateral for over $14,000.

Economic Injury Disaster Loans - ordinary and necessary financial obligations for small businesses, including small agricultural organizations and non-profit organizations. Collateral for over $5000.

Law determines interest rates:

  • Credit rating defines lower interest rates
  • Business loans -6%; Nonprofit - 4.5% (3 years)
  • No credit available - business, nonprofit and econ injury - 4% (30 years)

SBA covers:

  • Up to $67,500 for small project grants under the Public Assistance Program.
  • Up to $2 million for businesses; ceiling may be waived based upon SBA determination.

Mitigation Loans

Sometimes, the mitigation program can provide funding for retaining walls, seawalls, sump pumps and other future damage prevention.

For more information, call the SBA at 1-800-659-2955.