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Public Assistance Program

The Public Assistance Grant Program makes grants available to state agencies, local government organizations, and certain private nonprofit organizations that incurred costs or damage as a direct result of a federally declared disaster.

The program provides cost reimbursement aid to local governments (state, county, 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 nonprofit status.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania serves as the direct liaison between the federal government and all applicants requesting federal disaster assistance.

The purpose of the Public Assistance grant program is to support communities’ recovery from major disasters by providing them with grant assistance for debris removal, life-saving emergency protective measures, and restoring public infrastructure.

Local governments, states, tribes, territories, and certain private nonprofit organizations are eligible to apply.

The Public Assistance Grant Program is a cost-share reimbursement program. The Federal assistance share is not less than 75 percent of the eligible cost. It is up to the commonwealth to determine how the non-federal share (up to 25 percent) is split between the eligible applicants.

The program encourages protection of these damaged facilities from future events, by providing assistance for hazard mitigation measures during the recovery process.

Preliminary Damage Assessment and Declaration Process

Prior to the Public Assistance Grant Program becoming available, a presidential disaster declaration must be made designating the jurisdictions eligible for Public Assistance.

When preparing to request a presidential declaration, PEMA will participate in a joint FEMA, state, and local jurisdiction Preliminary Damage Assessments (PDA) which determines state eligibility for a presidential declaration if the damage threshold is met.

The PDA assesses the costs associated with emergency protective measures, debris removal, infrastructure restoration to pre-disaster condition after applicable insurance deductions, and any other federal program payments are made. If the total of these costs for both the affected counties and the state exceed the amount of assistance the state is looking to provide, as provided by the current fiscal year threshold developed by FEMA and based on adjustments to the consumer price index, the incident may then become eligible for a Public Assistance declaration.

Eligible Facilities

Generally, buildings, public works systems, built or manufactured equipment, and certain improved and maintained natural features, which are owned by a public or private nonprofit entity, are considered eligible.

Eligible Work

Public Assistance is categorized into two types of work: Emergency and Permanent.

The performance period for Emergency Work (Category A & B) is typically within six months of the presidential declaration.

The performance period for Permanent Work (Category C thru G) is normally 18 months after the presidential declaration.

The performance period for both Emergency and Permanent Work can be extended, provided that an appropriate extension request is submitted to PEMA as soon as it is known the initial deadline would not be achievable.

  • Debris Removal (Category A):  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 (Category B):  Measures taken to save lives, protect public health and safety, and to protect improved property. Must eliminate or lessen the threat.
  • Permanent Restoration (Category C-G):  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. May replace facility if cost of repair is more than 50 percent of replacement cost.

FEMA Grants Portal

The Public Assistance Program Delivery Model is the process used by FEMA to deliver grant assistance to applicants following a disaster declaration.

Projects are segmented based on the complexity of the type of work. Workflows are transparent and accountable through the online Grants Portal tool. The process also pairs specialized staff, roles, and responsibilities to fit applicants’ needs; and, centralizes processing to ensure consistency across multiple disaster operations.

Communities interested in applying for a Public Assistance Grant should contact their local or state emergency manager to begin the process and submit a Request for Public Assistance Form.

Applicants are highly encouraged to submit their forms through the online FEMA Grants Portal for faster processing.