Public Assistance Overview
The responsibility of the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management’s (DHS&EM) Public Assistance (PA) Section is to assist eligible Public Assistance applicants so they may quickly respond to, recover from, and mitigate against major disasters or emergencies declared by the Governor and/or the President.
Following the Disaster Declaration, Public Assistance, oriented to public entities, can fund the repair, restoration, reconstruction, or replacement of a public facility or infrastructure, which is damaged or destroyed by a disaster. Eligible applicants include State governments, local governments and any other political subdivision of the State, Native American tribes and Alaska Native Villages. Certain private nonprofit (PNP) organizations may also receive assistance. Eligible PNPs include educational, utility, emergency, medical, rehabilitation, and temporary or permanent custodial care facilities (including those for the aged and disabled), and other PNP facilities that provide essential services of a governmental nature to the general public. PNPs that provide “critical services” (power, water, sewer, wastewater treatment, communications and emergency medical care) may apply directly to the State/FEMA for a disaster grant. All other PNPs must first apply to the Small Business Administration (SBA) for a disaster loan when SBA has also declared. If the PNP is declined for a SBA loan or the loan does not cover all eligible damages, the applicant may reapply to the State/FEMA assistance.
As soon as practicable after the declaration, the State conducts Applicant Briefings for State, local and PNP officials to inform them of the assistance available and how to apply for it. A Request for Public Assistance must be filed with the State within 30 days after the area is designated eligible for assistance. Following the Applicant’s Briefing, a Scoping Meeting is conducted where damages will be discussed, needs assessed, and a plan of action put in place. State/FEMA teams (as appropriate) proceed with Site Inspections and Project Formulation, which is the process of documenting the eligible facility, the eligible work, and the eligible cost for fixing the damages to every public or PNP facility identified by State or local representatives. The team prepares a Project Worksheet (PW) for each project. Projects fall into the following categories:
- Category A: Debris removal
- Category B: Emergency protective measures
- Category C: Road systems and bridges
- Category D: Water control facilities
- Category E: Public buildings and contents
- Category F: Public utilities
- Category G: Parks, recreational, and other
For insurable structures within special flood hazard areas (SFHA), primarily buildings, assistance from State/FEMA is reduced by the amount of insurance settlement that could have been obtained under a standard National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policy. For structures located outside of a SFHA, State/FEMA will reduce the amount of eligible assistance by any available insurance proceeds. State/FEMA reviews and approves the PWs and obligates funding. For State only disasters, 100% of the funding comes from the State of Alaska. For Federal disasters funding is 75% federal and 25% State of Alaska. Alaska Disaster Public Assistance Staff then disburses funds to local applicants. Projects falling below a certain threshold are considered ‘small’ and those above the threshold are ‘Large’. The threshold is adjusted annually for inflation. For Federal disasters, after FEMA obligates funds to the State of Alaska, further management of the assistance, including disbursement to sub grantees is the responsibility of the State. FEMA will continue to monitor the recovery progress to ensure eligibility of assistance and compliance with the law and regulations.
Another aspect in Federal Disasters is the ability to mitigate future damages. Section 406 of the Stafford Act provides discretionary authority to fund mitigation measures in conjunction with the repair of disaster-damaged facilities. The mitigation measures must relate to eligible disaster damages and must directly reduce the potential of future, similar disaster damages to the eligible facility. Normally, 406 mitigation is performed on the parts of the facility that were actually damaged by the disaster.
Top Seven Frequently Asked PA Questions
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Under what Authority does the Public Assistance program operate?
The Alaska Statute Title 26: Alaska Disaster Act §26.23.010 - §26.23.220 is the authority for the State to provide emergency assistance to State, Tribal and local governments, and certain types of Private Nonprofit organizations to recover from the damages incurred as a result of a disaster. The Governor may provide state assistance to supplement state agencies’ and political subdivisions’ efforts and capabilities to save lives, protect property and public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a disaster in Alaska.
If recovery from the event exceeds the capability of the state, the Governor may request a Federal Declaration through the FEMA Regional Office.
Title 44 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 206-Federal Disaster Assistance for Disasters Declared on or after November 23, 1988 provides rules, policies and procedures issued by FEMA. These regulations are followed by FEMA in the implementation and administration of federal disaster programs. The regulations applicable to the Public Assistance (PA) Program are contained in Subparts G, H, and I. The regulations set forth in Parts 9 (Floodplain Management and Protection of the Wetlands), 10 (Environmental Considerations), 13 (“Common Rule” of Grant Administration), and 14 (Audits) of 44CFR are also applicable to projects funded under the PA Program.
Who is an Eligible Applicant?
State, Tribal and local governments, and certain types of Private Nonprofit organizations are eligible under the Public Assistance program.
What is considered an Eligible Facility?
Eligible Facilities are those owned by the State or Political Subdivisions of the state:
- Any flood control, navigation, irrigation, reclamation, public power, sewage treatment and collection, water supply and distribution, watershed development or airport facility.
- Any non-Federal-aid street, road or highway
- Any other public building, structure, or system, including those used for educational, recreational, or cultural purposes.
- Any park
Are Private Non-Profit Facilities eligible?
Any private non-profit educational, utility, emergency, medical, or custodial care facility, including a facility for the aged or disabled, and other facilities providing essential governmental type services to the general public, and such facilities on Indian reservations and federally recognized Alaska native villages. Further definition is as follows:
- Educational facility. Classrooms plus related supplies, equipment, machinery, and utilities of an educational institution necessary or appropriate for instructional, administrative, and support purposes, but does not include buildings, structures and related items used primarily for religious purposes or instruction.
- Utility. Buildings, structures, or systems of energy, communication, water supply, sewage collection and treatment, or other similar public service facilities.
- Emergency facility. Those buildings, structures, equipment, or systems used to provide emergency services such as fire protection, ambulance, or rescue, to the general public, including the administrative and support facilities essential to the operation of such emergency facilities even if not contiguous.
- Medical facility. Any hospital, outpatient facility, rehabilitation facility, or facility for long-term care and any similar facility offering diagnosis or treatment of mental or physical injury or disease including the administrative and support facilities essential to the operation of such medical facilities even if not contiguous.
- Custodial care facility. Those buildings, structures, or systems including those for essential administration and support which are used to provide institutional care for persons who require close supervision and some physical constraints on their daily activities for their self-protection, but do not require day-to-day medical care.
- Other essential governmental service facility. Museums, zoos, community centers, libraries, homeless shelters, senior citizen centers, rehabilitation facilities, shelter workshops and facilities which provide health and safety services of a governmental nature. All such facilities must be open to the general public.
In order to meet eligibility criteria, Private non-profit organizations 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 non-revenue producing organization or entity is a non-profit agency or entity organized or doing business under State law.
What is considered Eligible Work?
Eligible Work is based on the following criteria:
- It must be a direct result of the declared disaster.
- Located within the designated disaster area.
- It must be the legal responsibility of the eligible applicant.
Eligible Work is divided into two types of work, emergency and permanent, and then further divided into seven different categories of work:
- 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 – Buildings and Equipment
- Category F – Utilities
- Category G – Parks, Recreational Facilities & Other Items
Are all Costs Eligible for reimbursement?
Not all costs incurred in responding or recovering from a declared event are considered eligible for reimbursement under the Public Assistance Program. Eligible Costs must be:
- Reasonable and necessary to accomplish the work.
- Compliant with State and local procurement procedures. (During a Federal Declaration of Emergency applicants must also comply with Federal procedures.)
- Reduced by all applicable credits such as insurance proceeds or salvage values.
The eligible costs apply to those direct costs incurred such as labor, equipment, materials or contracts awarded for the performance of eligible work.
PA Declaration (State)
When an event is beyond the capability of the affected Political Subdivision(s) and the impacted community is within a Borough, assistance must first be sought from the Borough. If the event exceeds the Borough’s capability, the jurisdiction may request State assistance. DHS&EM Activates the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC); deploys personnel to evaluate the life, health and safety impact and assist in local response. DHS&EM Staff in coordination with local officials will conduct a joint state/local initial damage assessment to gather damage and impact (to the community) information for inclusion in a Fact Sheet. Information gathered is used to develop a Fact Sheet for use by the Governor’s Disaster Policy Cabinet (DPC). The DPC reviews the Fact Sheet and provides a recommendation for the Governor. If the Governor issues a State Declaration of Disaster Emergency, some of the information included will be jurisdictions and programs eligible for assistance.
The Governor may declare a state of emergency after a political subdivision has passed a resolution stating that an emergency exists within their jurisdiction(s). The jurisdiction must demonstrate the incident is beyond their capability to recover from without state assistance. The Governor may provide PA funds to the affected Political Subdivision(s) of the state (State, Tribal and local governments, and certain types of Private Nonprofit organizations). The Disaster Relief Fund covers the costs of emergencies and disasters. Funds from the DRF are provided to eligible applicants through specific grants describing restoration work. These grants take the form of Project Worksheets (PW’s) and are developed in concert with applicant representatives. DHS&EM administers this fund.
PA Declaration (Federal)
When a disaster is beyond the capability of the State, the Governor will forward a formal request for assistance to the President of the United States. Federal assistance becomes available upon the President’s declaration and is usually administered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Disaster closeout occurs upon completion of all PW work, payments, and cost reconciliation associated with that disaster have been completed and FEMA closes out the disaster.
Through the PA Program, DHS&EM provides supplemental disaster grant assistance for debris removal, emergency protective measures, and the repair, replacement, or restoration of disaster-damaged, publicly owned facilities and the facilities of certain PNP organizations. The PA Program also encourages protection of these damaged facilities from future events by providing assistance for hazard mitigation measures under Section 406 of the Stafford Act, during the recovery process.
Section 406 provides discretionary authority to fund mitigation measures in conjunction with the repair of disaster-damaged facilities. The mitigation measures must relate to eligible disaster damages and must directly reduce the potential of future, similar disaster damages to the eligible facility. Normally, 406 mitigation is performed on the parts of the facility that were actually damaged by the disaster.
Appeal Process for State Disasters
An applicant may appeal any programmatic decision rendered by the state Public Assistance section. All appeals must be submitted to the DHS&EM Director within 60 days from the date of receiving written notice of the decision being appealed. Upon receiving a written appeal from the applicant, PA Staff will review the material submitted, make additional investigations as necessary, and forward the appeal with a written recommendation and a range of alternatives to the Director for a final decision. The Director will submit a final decision to the applicant regarding the appeal within 60 days. The final decision by the Director constitutes a final administrative determination and is subject to judicial review under AS 44.62 (Administrative Procedure Act).
Appeal Process for Federal Disasters
An applicant may appeal any programmatic decision rendered by the state Public Assistance section or FEMA. All appeals must be submitted to the DHS&EM Director within 60 days from the date of receiving written notice of the decision being appealed. Upon receiving a written appeal from the applicant, PA Staff will review the material submitted, make additional investigations as necessary, and forward the appeal with a written recommendation to the Director and FEMA, if the applicant remains dissatisfied with FEMA’s appeal decision, they may appeal a second time by providing any new or additional information that can be developed. This second appeal constitutes the final appeal allowed under the Stafford Act, thus constitutes a final decision. The applicant and the state each have 60 days to respond within the process while FEMA has 90 days to respond. Actions going through a second appeal could easily take up to 18 months to resolve. The appeal process for federal disasters is outlined in 44 CFR Section 206.206
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