SEMA’s Public Assistance Section (part of SEMA’s Recovery Division) administers federal grants to eligible public entities for the repair and restoration of damaged roads, bridges, public infrastructure and facilities in federally-declared disaster areas. These expenses included emergency protective measures or response costs as a direct result of the disaster. Public entities include municipal and county government, school districts, state agencies, and certain private, nonprofit organizations.

Funding is provided through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in accordance with Public Law 93-288, as amended by the Stafford Act. Public assistance grants are provided on a cost-share basis, with percentages established in the state-federal agreement, and a federal share of no less than 75 percent. The state of Missouri has traditionally paid a state share of 10 percent of the eligible expenses for local government entities.

For questions about the Public Assistance program, call SEMA at (573) 526-9234.

Applicant Briefings – A Key to the Public Assistance Process

Following a federal disaster declaration for Public Assistance, SEMA will schedule Applicant Briefings to inform eligible applicants in counties included in the declared counties with information about the Public Assistance process. Applicant Briefings are very important for applicants and required by FEMA to provide information about the Public Assistance program, and its rules and regulations. Potential applicants must note there is a 30 day deadline from the date of the disaster declaration to submit a federal request for Public Assistance to SEMA and for SEMA to process the requests for FEMA.

Potential FEMA Public Assistance program applicants attend a SEMA Applicant Briefing in Van Buren on June 19, 2017.

Potential FEMA Public Assistance program applicants attend a SEMA Applicant Briefing in Van Buren on June 19, 2017.

Most applicants have already begun repair work before the Applicant Briefings are held. They are still strongly encouraged to attend an Applicant Briefing to learn about program changes, eligibility information and to ensure their Federal Request for Public Assistance (RPA) is submitted in time to meet the 30-day submission deadline. If it is absolutely impossible for an organizational representative to attend any briefing and submit the RPA, the applicant can contact SEMA’s Public Assistance program, which will work with them to submit their request.

Conducted by SEMA public assistance staff (FEMA representatives will be in attendance), the briefings walk applicants through the reimbursement process and explain how to determine eligible work, document progress, and submit Public Assistance applications.

Remember:

  • Applicant Briefing attendance is required to file an application for Public Assistance.
  • Each function in an applicant organization should be present for the applicant briefing to understand their role and responsibility in the process. These include senior officials, fiscal managers, administrative staff managers and the applicant’s authorized representative.
  • Because documentation is a key – and often a misunderstood part of FEMA’s Public Assistance program – anyone who will be involved in the documentation process should attend.
  • To expedite the process SEMA will accept signed notices of the intent to apply for Public Assistance at the Applicant Briefings.
  • FEMA may deny applications for assistance that are received past the 30-day deadline.
  • Most applicants have already started repairs before the Applicant Briefings. The key is that they document the damage and save all paperwork.
    • Take pictures of the damage.
    • Make sure you follow all of your organization’s normal procedures, such as bids, contract approvals, signed contracts and invoices.
    • Keep copies of all these documents, because SEMA and FEMA will review them to determine whether you’re eligible for reimbursement.

The applicant briefings will answer many of your questions, and a SEMA staff member will be assigned to each county to help with projects details. But if you have questions at any time, please contact SEMA Public Assistance Section Manager Alan Prenger at 573-526-9114 or alan.prenger@sema.dps.mo.gov.

FEMA Recovery Scoping Meetings

After the Applicant Briefings, FEMA will hold what are called Recovery Scoping meetings (formerly called Kickoff Meetings), which are one-on-one meetings between each applicant and FEMA Public Assistance staff. FEMA generally requires that applicants identify and report all of its disaster-related damage, emergency work activities, and debris quantities to FEMA within 60 days of the Scoping Meeting.

FEMA Public Assistance Process Moving Forward

A combined federal/state/local team proceeds with “project formulation,” which is the process of documenting the eligible facility, the eligible work, and the eligible cost for fixing the damage to every public or private nonprofit facility identified by state or local representatives. The team prepares a “Project Worksheet” based on actual costs or on the basis of an estimate for each project.

FEMA considers the state, through SEMA, to be the recovery grant recipient. Each local or private nonprofit recipient is considered a sub-grantee. Sub-grantees receive reimbursements for projects from FEMA through SEMA as work is performed. SEMA does not have access to the FEMA funds.

FEMA has seven categories of public assistance projects.

Public Assistance Projects Categories:

  • Category A: Debris removal
  • Category B: Emergency protective measures
  • 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

A FEMA Public Assistance grant recipient may be approved for multiple projects involving some or all seven Public Assistance categories. FEMA handles projects differently based on scope and expense of the project. There are two types of projects.

Small Projects

Projects falling below a certain threshold (approximately $120,000 for 2017) are considered "small." The threshold is adjusted annually for inflation. For small projects, payment of the federal share of the estimate is made upon approval of the project and notification is required upon completion of the project.

Large Projects

For large projects, payment is made on the basis of actual costs determined after the project is completed, although interim payments may be made as necessary, or on the basis of an agreed upon estimate. The eligible applicant has the choice of how it wishes to receive the federal grant. Once FEMA obligates funds to the state, 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 the timely delivery of eligible assistance and compliance with the law and regulations.

The federal share of assistance is not less than 75 percent of the eligible cost for emergency measures and permanent restoration.

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