What is FEMA Public Assistance (PA) and what is a PA Category?
What do you need to follow when your disaster area is setup with federal taxpayer dollars for Public Assistance? You need to watch what is on your governments agenda for spending to make sure the PA funds go to more services for the citizens.

By Contributor published 9-7-2020 updated 9-7-2020

FEMA - Public Assistance Categories

Public assistance from FEMA is offered to State, Tribal, Territorial, local governments to include specific not for profit organizations for emergency work, repair, replacement of damaged facilities caused by the disaster and to included administrative services provided in disaster zones or related to the disaster.

Debris Removal (Category A)

FEMA can assist you with funding for the clearance, removal, and/or disposal of items such as trees, woody debris, sand, mud, silt, gravel, damaged building components and contents, wreckage produced during the conduct of emergency work, and other disaster-related wreckage. For debris removal to be eligible, the work must be necessary to:

  • Eliminate an immediate threat to lives or public health and safety
  • Eliminate immediate threats of significant damage to improved public or private property when the measures are cost effective
  • Ensure the economic recovery of the affected community to the benefit of the community-at-large
  • Mitigate the risk to life and property by removing substantially damaged structures as needed to convert property acquired using FEMA hazard mitigation program funds to uses compatible with open space, recreation, and wetland management practices

Debris removal is the responsibility of government agencies. If necessary, your FEMA PAC Crew Leader can advise you on the few situations in which debris removal by PNP organizations may be eligible. Removal of debris on public property that is required to allow continued safe operation of governmental functions or to alleviate an immediate threat is generally eligible. Debris on private property rarely meets the public interest standard because it does not affect the public-at-large and most often is not the legal responsibility of a State or local government. Debris removal from private property is usually the responsibility of the individual property owner.

Emergency Protective Measures (Category B)

FEMA can also help pay for actions taken by the community (almost always government agencies) before, during, and after a disaster to save lives, protect public health and safety, and prevent damage to improved public and private property.

Examples of measures that may be eligible include:

  • Warning of risks and hazards
  • Search and rescue
  • Emergency evacuations
  • Emergency mass care
  • Rescue, evacuation, transportation, care, shelter, and essential needs for humans affected by the outbreak and spread of an influenza pandemic
  • Protection for an eligible facility
  • Security in the disaster area
  • Provision of food, water, ice, and other essential items at central distribution points
  • Temporary generators for facilities that provide health and safety services
  • Rescue, care, shelter, and essential needs for household pets and service animals if claimed by a State or local government
  • Temporary facilities for schools and essential community services
  • Emergency operations centers to coordinate and direct the response to a disaster
  • Demolition and removal of public and private buildings and structures that pose an immediate threat to the safety of the general public
  • Removal of health and safety hazards
  • Construction of emergency protection measures to protect lives or improved property (for example, temporary levees)
  • Emergency measures to prevent further damage to an otherwise eligible facility (for example, boarding windows)
  • Restoration of access
  • Inspections if necessary to determine whether structures pose an immediate threat to public health or safety

Permanent Work (Categories C-G)

FEMA can also help pay to restore facilities through repair or restoration, to pre-disaster design, function, and capacity in accordance with codes or standards.

Roads and Bridges (Category C).

Roads (paved, gravel, and dirt) are eligible for permanent repair or replacement, unless they are Federal Aid roads (which are supported by the FHWA). Eligible work includes repair to surfaces, bases, shoulders, ditches, culverts, low water crossings, and other features, such as guardrails. Repairs necessary as the result of normal deterioration, such as alligator cracking or rotted timbers, are considered pre-disaster damage and not eligible. Eligible work for bridges includes decking and pavement, piers, girders, abutments, slope protection, and approaches.

Water Control Facilities (Category D).

Permanent repairs are not eligible for flood control works and federally funded shore protective devices since the primary authority for the restoration of those facilities is with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Resources Conservation Service. But FEMA can help with permanent repairs for other water control facilities, such as those that were built for channel alignment, recreation, navigation, land reclamation, maintenance of fish and wildlife habitat, interior drainage, irrigation, and erosion prevention. (See APPENDIX A for special requirements for PNP irrigation facilities.)

Buildings and Equipment (Category E).

Buildings, structural components, interior systems (e.g., electrical and mechanical systems), building contents, vehicles, and equipment are eligible for repair or replacement. Replacement of pre-disaster quantities of consumable supplies and inventory, the replacement of library books and publications, and the stabilization (but not re-creation from original sources) of damaged files are also eligible. If disaster-related mud, silt, or other accumulated debris does not pose an immediate threat but its removal is necessary to restore the building, its removal is eligible as permanent work if it does pose an immediate threat, the disaster-related work will fall under Category A (Debris Removal).

Utilities (Category F).

The repair or restoration of utilities is also eligible.

Utilities include:

  • Water treatment plants and delivery systems
  • Power generation and distribution facilities, including natural gas systems, wind turbines, generators, substations, and power lines
  • Sewage collection systems and treatment plants
  • Communications

You are responsible for determining the extent of damage to utility systems. General surveys to look for damage are not eligible, but if you discover damage, the inspection of the damaged section is eligible. Any increased operating expenses resulting from the disaster or lost revenue are not eligible however, the cost of establishing temporary emergency utility services in the event of a shut-down may be eligible as emergency work.

Parks, Recreational Areas, and Other Facilities (Category G). Publicly owned facilities in this category are generally eligible.

They include:

  • Playground and picnic equipment
  • Swimming pools, golf courses, and tennis courts
  • Piers
  • Some beaches (you will need to work with your FEMA Project Specialist to determine if yours meet the criteria for assistance)
  • Mass transit facilities, such as rail systems
  • Facilities that do not fit in Categories C-F, such as fish hatcheries
  • Supporting facilities (e.g., roads, buildings, and utilities) that are located in parks and recreational areas, subject to the eligibility criteria for Categories C, D, E, and F

Natural features, such as the banks of streams, are not facilities and are not eligible for repair. In addition, the replacement of trees, shrubs, and other ground cover is not eligible for any facility in any category of work. This means that replacement of grass and sod (including for recreational and sports areas) generally is not eligible for the Public Assistance Program. The one exception is grass or sod required as part of another measure to stabilize a slope and minimize erosion.

Recreational areas owned by PNP organizations are not eligible for assistance.

Fire Management (Category H).

Fire Management Assistance declarations are approved by FEMA&rsquos Recovery Directorate Assistant Administrator, or his/her designee, in response to a State's request for fire management assistance. FEMA&rsquos Fire Management Assistance Grant Program is authorized by the Stafford Act and is available to States, local governments, and Indian Tribal governments. It is intended to aid with the mitigation, management, and control of fires burning on publicly- or privately-owned forests or grasslands that would threaten such destruction as would constitute a major disaster. The grants cover fire-related activities, such as firefighting and support services, pre-positioning Federal, out-of-state, and international resources for up to 21 days, evacuations, sheltering, traffic control, emergency operations centers, and temporary repairs of damage caused by firefighting activities. More information on the grants can be obtained at www.fema.gov/government/grant/fmagp/index.