MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The federal government has already put more than $1.1 million in the hands of state, county, and local governments to reimburse them for their costs associated with the April 28 to May 5 severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds and flooding that struck Alabama.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Public Assistance (PA) program provides states, counties, municipalities, federally-recognized tribes and certain private nonprofit organizations with funding for clean-up, repairing public infrastructure and the cost of responding to declared disasters.
“We are working as hard as we can to get these funds out to the affected communities,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Albie Lewis, the head of FEMA’s disaster recovery mission in Alabama. “But we have to follow the process and its safeguards to ensure that the taxpayers’ money is spent properly.”
FEMA’s Public Assistance program provides funding to repair roads and bridges, put water systems and utilities back in order, and pay for the cost of emergency response as well as debris removal in some cases.
Of the funding obligated so far, roughly half of it – $491,982 – has been allocated for debris removal. Another $169,104 will cover expenses related to responding to the storms, and $259,019 has been obligated for reimbursement of infrastructure repair work.
The total PA costs for the state of Alabama are estimated at just under $30 million.
“Obviously, it will take some time to process the paperwork for the more than 300 projects we expect to receive applications for,” Lewis said. “FEMA will be here for the duration and we hope the state, counties and municipalities will be patient as we continue our work.”
FEMA’s PA program typically reimburses 75 percent of the eligible cost of these projects, with the state and local government sharing the remainder.
“Our staff is working as diligently as our partners at FEMA to get these funds out the door to the organizations, counties and towns that need them,” said Alabama’s State Coordinating Officer, Jeff Byard.
The PA funding program process includes the following steps:
Preliminary Damage Assessments (PDAs) are conducted by local, state and federal officials after a disaster has struck.
The governor requests federal assistance.
The president then grants a disaster declaration for counties within the affected state.
The state holds applicant briefings to explain eligibility
The public entity makes a formal request to the state for Public Assistance (RPA).
At the “Kick-off” meeting, FEMA assigns a Public Assistance Coordinator (PAC) to work with the applicant to prepare project worksheets.
FEMA coordinates with the State’s Office of Emergency Management and Regional Planning Commissions to schedule applicant meetings and site visits.
FEMA documents the damage, identifies the scope of work and estimates the costs.
FEMA then reviews the project to ensure it complies with program eligibility guidelines and is cost effective.
If the project is approved, federal funds are obligated to the state which in turn provides funding to the applicant.
There is a closeout process that reviews the entire project to ensure compliance with all applicable regulations.