On January 9, 2023, FEMA released a Simplified Procedures policy for Public Assistance grants to speed up recovery for applicants. Small projects are now defined as those up to $1 million.
The new policy should reduce administrative burdens and enable communities to recover more quickly after presidentially declared events by streamlining documentation requirements.
FEMA conducted a review in 2020. It showed that if a $1 million threshold were applied, 94 percent of projects would be considered small and help put additional recovery dollars in the hands of applicants faster and accelerate closure of projects.
FEMA intends to continue adjusting the threshold annually to reflect changes in the Consumer Price Index. It also intends to review the base threshold every three years.
The new policy is not directly aimed at individuals, but at state and local governments and certain types of private nonprofit organizations. Public Assistance grants cover such things as:
- Disaster-related debris removal
- Emergency protective measures
- Repairs to damaged or destroyed infrastructure (i.e., roads).
Depending on repair cost and other factors, the road washout above is an example of the type of project that might benefit from the new policy. However, it’s not clear whether the simplified procedures apply retroactively to damage from past disasters or only future disasters. More details will follow.
How Public Assistance Usually Works
In general, applicants submit Requests for Public Assistance (RPAs) within 30 days of the disaster declaration. They must demonstrate that:
- Damage is in a designated area
- Applicant has legal responsibility to perform the work
- Cost is reasonable.
Once FEMA and the state review and approve the government agencies’ or nonprofits’ RPAs, applicants work with their FEMA representative to develop a damage inventory.
FEMA obligates funds to the state once a project meets Stafford Act eligibility requirements. The state is the official recipient of FEMA federal assistance. The state is then responsible for disbursing the money to applicants.
FEMA will hold a series of webinars in coming weeks to explain more about the simplified policy. Additional details are not yet available.
Getting aid to people faster after a disaster is necessary. This is a very complex subject. I wish all forms of disaster relief, including hazard mitigation, could be simplified. We’re still waiting on the Harris County, the GLO and HUD to agree on a plan for spending $750 million in mitigation funds related to Hurricane Harvey – 5.5 years after the event!
Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/12/23 based on a FEMA Press Release
1962 Days after Hurricane Harvey