FEMA Public Assistance Grant Program Available to Water and Wastewater Utilities
Description: The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) can provide funding to assist communities responding to and recovering from major disasters or emergencies declared by the President under the Stafford Act (42 U.S.C. §§ 5121 et seq). The Public Assistance (PA) Program, FEMA’s largest grant program, provides funding for emergency assistance to save lives and protect property and assists with funding for permanently restoring community infrastructure affected by a federally declared incident.
Eligibility Requirements: Eligible applicants for PA include states, federally recognized tribal governments (including Alaska Native villages and organizations so long as they are not privately owned), U.S. territories, local governments, and certain private non-profit (PNP) organizations. Eligible applicants may receive assistance to restore disaster-damaged facilities to their pre-disaster design and function, including applicable codes and standards. At minimum, all work must be required as a result of the declared incident, located in the designated area, the legal responsibility of the applicant, and undertaken at a reasonable cost. 1
FEMA also has authority to provide PA funding for cost-effective hazard mitigation measures for disaster-damaged facilities. For example, if a road was washed out during a flood, FEMA would consider funding work to upsize the culvert, increase pipe capacity, or redirect stormwater flow if these measures would mitigate future flooding impacts. Some examples of cost-effective mitigation measures include:
- Pumps: If pumps and their attached motors are damaged by stormwater inundation, replace them with submersible or inline pumps as appropriate.
- Sewer Access Covers: Elevate to the hydraulic grade line. When elevation is not feasible or practical, install devices to prevent infiltration into access holes such as cast-iron watertight frames and covers.
- Well Systems: Seal exposed portions of well casing or raise the elevation of the well head to prevent infiltration of flood waters.
- Raw water intakes: Install buttressing to prevent damage from erosion, scour, and flood debris.
Cost Share: PA has cost-share requirements. The federal cost share is not less than 75 percent of the eligible expenses. The state, territory, or tribe determines how the remaining 25 percent will be shared between the recipient and the subrecipient. In 2019, FEMA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to accelerate the delivery of assistance to disaster affected communities by coordinating the use of State Revolving Funds (SRFs). This MOU streamlines coordination between FEMA and the EPA-funded SRF programs.
Under the Clean Water and Drinking Water SRF programs, the EPA provides funding to all 50 states and Puerto Rico to capitalize SRF loan programs. SRF programs provide low-interest loans and additional subsidies to public, private, and non-profit entities for eligible drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities and a wide variety of other water and wastewater infrastructure projects. Among other provisions, the MOU states that the non-federal portion of the SRFs can be used as the non-federal cost share needed for FEMA funded projects. This means that communities do not need to rely solely on their own limited funds, but can instead turn to SRF funding to help restore vital water infrastructure more quickly in times of disaster.
Application: Water utilities should reach out to their state or local emergency management agency to start the application process for FEMA PA funds. For a more complete summary of how utilities can obtain such funds, see the following EPA publications:
- EPA fact sheet: Public Assistance for Water and Wastewater Utilities in Emergencies and Disasters.
- EPA fact sheet: Lessons Learned from Water/Wastewater Utilities that Participated in FEMA's Public Assistance Program.
- FEMA and EPA MOU: This MOU streamlines coordination between FEMA and EPA-funded State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs so infrastructure can be provided as quickly as possible in times of disaster. For more information on FEMA’s Public Assistance Program, refer to the Public Assistance Program and Policy Guide.
Website: For the FEMA website, see FEMA Public Assistance.
1 Applicant, facility, work, and cost eligibility can be found in the Public Assistance Program and Policy Guide, Version 4. https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/111781.