FEMA Public Assistance Program



What is FEMA's Public Assistance (PA) Program?

FEMA’s PA program is designed to provide assistance to State, local, Territorial or Tribal government entities (SLTT), and certain types of private nonprofit organizations (PNP) so that communities can quickly respond to and recover from major disasters or emergencies where the President has specifically declared them. The program encourages the protection of these facilities by providing assistance for hazard mitigation measures during the recovery process. 

Through the PA Program, FEMA provides assistance to remove debris and mitigate further damage in disaster-affected areas as well as restoring impacted communities.

The PA Program also protects these damaged facilities from future incidents by providing assistance for hazard mitigation measures. FEMA provides this assistance based on authority in statutes, executive orders (EOs), regulations, and policies.

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 the responsibility of the applicant. FEMA will continue to monitor the progress of recovery and make sure emergency assistance is delivered in a timely manner. Recipients are responsible for managing their funds and should disburse eligible aid according to federal laws and regulations.

Who is considered an eligible applicant to the Public Assistance (PA) program?

Eligible applicants include:

  • States
  • Federally recognized tribal governments (including Alaska Native villages and organizations so long as they are not privately owned)
  • U.S. territories, local governments
  • Certain private non-profit (PNP) organizations

Note: PNPs must have “an effective ruling letter from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, granting tax exemption under sections 501(c), (d), or (e) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, or satisfactory evidence from the State that the nonrevenue producing organization or entity is a nonprofit one organized or doing business under State law.”

Additionally, for a PNP-operated facility to be eligible, the PNP must demonstrate the facility provides a critical service or provides a non-critical, but essential government service and is open to the general public. A facility that provides a critical service is defined as one used for an educational, utility, emergency, or medical purpose.

What is The Life of a PA Grant?

Public Assistance follows FEMA's common set of phases known as the Grants Management Life Cycle


Applicants work with the Recipient and FEMA to develop the award package for a grant.


FEMA approves the award package and allocates funding.


Funds are released to the Recipients who must maintain, monitor, and report upon.


FEMA administers performance evaluation, financial and appeal reconciliation, final reporting activities, appeal resolution and debt actions.


As necessary, FEMA performs debt collection actions, audit, and other adjustments may continue after grant closeout.

What are the project categories of the PA program?

(Eligible Types of Work)

FEMA processes PA grant funding based on the type of work the applicants undertake. As a result of the declared incident, eligible work must be required, be located in the designated area, be the legal responsibility of the applicant, and be undertaken at a reasonable cost.

Eligible work is classified into the following categories:

Emergency Work:

Category A: Debris removal
Category B: Emergency protective measures

Permanent Work:

Category C: Roads and bridges
Category D: Water control facilities
Category E: Public buildings and contents
Category F: Public utilities
Category G: Parks, recreational, and other facilities.

What is the application process for the PA program?

Following a federal declaration, the recipient (i.e. state, tribe, or territory) shall conduct an Applicant Briefings to inform any potential applicants (i.e. state, local, tribal, territorial, and PNP officials) of the assistance available and the process on how to apply.

Next, applicants must file a Request for Public Assistance within 30 days of the date their respective area is designated by the federal declaration.

Lastly, after the request is approved, FEMA (and the applicants) schedule and conduct additional meetings to discuss disaster damage and project formulation.  Applicants of the program must identify and report any damages to FEMA within a 60-day regulatory timeframe. FEMA, the recipient, or the applicant will then prepare project worksheets for eligible work and eligible facilities based on actual or estimated project costs.

What are the different roles and responsibilities in the PA program?

A number of government entities work together to offer disaster relief aid once a declaration has been made. These entities must collaborate in order to launch an effective, quick-acting, and efficient program.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s responsibilities include determining the amount of funding needed for projects, participating in educating applicants about requirements and procedures, assisting applicants with developing project ideas, and reviewing each project for compliance.


The federal awarding agency authorized to manage the program.


The State, Territorial, or Tribal government that receives funding under the disaster declaration and disburses funding to approved subrecipients.


Entities submitting a request for assistance under the recipient's federal award.


Applicants who have received a subaward from the Recipient and is then bound by the conditions of the award and subaward.

What are the eligibility components for public assistance grant funding?

The four basic components of eligibility are applicant, facility, work, and cost.

  • An Applicant must be a state, territory, tribe, local government, private nonprofit organization.
  • A Facility must be a building, public works, system, equipment, or natural feature.
  • Work is categorized as either Emergency or Permanent. It must be required as a result of the declared incident, located within the designated disaster area, and the legal responsibility of the Applicant.
  • Cost is the funding tied directly to eligible work, and must be adequately documented, authorized, necessary and reasonable. Eligible costs include labor, equipment, materials, contract work, as well as direct and indirect administrative costs.

Who can assist with managing the FEMA Publish Assistance Program?

The removal of disaster debris is the first step in a speedy recovery process. Collecting, sorting, and disposing of large quantities must be carefully evaluated within every response planning activity, and that responsibility belongs to any applicant requesting supplemental funding through FEMA's Public Assistance Program (PA).

Disaster Management companies can help immeasurably with this process. These companies are experienced in managing large scale debris management operations throughout the country after some of the worst disasters and can help eligible recipients by:

  • Developing a DDM Plan in compliance with current state and federal funding requirements.
  • Training all staff and contracted providers in order to coordinate an efficient removal effort.
  • Utilizing the experience and knowledge of planners, managers, and field monitors to maximize FEMA reimbursements.


FEMA Program Overview -  https://www.fema.gov/assistance/public/program-overview

Public Assistance Fact Sheet - https://www.fema.gov/sites/default/files/2020-07/fema_public-assistance-fact-sheet_10-2019_0.pdf


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