The objective of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Public Assistance (PA) Grant Program is to provide assistance to state, tribal, local governments and certain types of private non-profit organizations so that communities can quickly respond to and recover from major disasters or emergencies declared by the president. The United States Virgin Islands (USVI) manages this program as the grantee from FEMA (grantor) for all sub-grants awarded to local eligible jurisdictions and agencies within the USVI.
Through the Public Assistance Grant Program, FEMA provides supplemental federal disaster grant assistance for debris removal and emergency protective measures. In addition, grant assistance may be provided for the repair, replacement or restoration of disaster-damaged, publicly-owned facilities and the facilities of certain private non-profit (PNP) organizations. To be eligible for assistance from the grant program, prospective applicants must fill out a Request for Public Assistance for the Public Assistance Division within the Office of Disaster Recovery. The FEMA Public Assistance Grant Program also encourages protection of the damages facilities from future events by providing assistance for hazard mitigation measures during the recovery process.
Public Assistance is FEMA’s largest grant program. Since the 2017 presidential declarations of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the USVI has been the recipient of over 1.8 billion dollars through PA grants to help the territory clear debris and rebuild road, schools, and other public facilities.
Prior to the Public Assistance Grant Program becoming available, a presidential declaration must be made designating the jurisdictions eligible for Public Assistance. The Territory will participate with FEMA in a local jurisdiction Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) to determine the State eligibility for a presidential declaration for the Public Assistance Grant Program. The PDA process assesses the cost associated with Emergency Protective Measures, Debris Removal, and Infrastructure Restoration to pre-disaster condition after deductions for insurance and any other federal program payments are made. If the total of these costs for both the affected counties and that state exceed the amount of assistance the state is able to provide, as established by current fiscal year threshold developed by FEMA based onadjustments to the consumer price index, the incident may then become eligible for a Public Assistance deceleration. It is for this reason that all damages must be tabulated to capture the true cost of the incident to the state for consideration for FEMA and the president.
Public Assistance is categorized into two types of work: Emergency and Permanent. The performance period for Emergency Work Public Assistance Grants is normally 180 days after the presidential declaration. The performance period for Permanent Work Public Assistance Grants is normally 18 months after the presidential declaration. The performance period of both of these types of grants can be extended provided tan appropriate request for extension is submitted to the territory (grantee) by the local jurisdiction or agency (sub-grantee).