Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

Road Map of FEMA Recovery Programs – The FEMA New Recipients of Disaster Grants Guide

In May 2019, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issued the New Recipients of Disaster Grants Guide (the Guide) that outlines key features of its primary recovery programs: Public Assistance (PA), Individual Assistance (IA), and the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP).

Newcomers to disaster recovery, whether states, local governments, or private nonprofits (PNPs), will find the Guide far easier to digest than formal recovery policy as it effectively demystifies the differences between FEMA’s main recovery programs. However, we at Hagerty recommend the Guide be used in tandem with established recovery policy to make decisions – not as a stand-alone document.

The key to using this new publication properly is to view it as reference material that can lead to identifying the authoritative policies, regulations, and/or statutes that underpin FEMA programs.

FEMA’s New Recipients of Disaster Grants Guide

What the Guide Can Do

The purpose of this Guide is to provide a roadmap for states, local, tribal, and territorial governments to meet FEMA’s basic regulatory and policy requirements, while implementing pre- and post-disaster activities. The Guide is holistic in its scope, covering program, policy, and procedural requirements of PA, IA, and HMGP. It is important to note that this Guide does not introduce new policies or procedures.

The Guide is elegant in its simplicity of presentation and delivery. It uses plain language and graphics to review each program individually. And at the end, the Guide lays out a New Recipient Checklist – a tool recovery newcomers can use immediately.

What the Guide Can’t Do

The Guide cannot alone be relied on for final recovery decisions. The purpose of the Guide is to speak at a higher level and to serve as a reference and should be accepted as such. The FEMA programs have vast requirements that can be difficult to navigate. Further, traditional FEMA programs are so complex that there are even disaster-specific policies (e.g., for Hurricane Michael) that add nuance to the existing layer-cake of program requirements. The Guide does not contain the requisite detail to implement these programs but refers to other more in-depth guides, such as the Public Assistance Program and Policy Guide. Additionally, the Guide does not clarify the role that states, tribes, and territories play in shaping how FEMA implements disaster grants and programs to meet recovery needs.

As of June 2019, there are over 33 states, tribes, and territories currently operating with open major and emergency Declarations – the majority of Recipients that would be eligible for FEMA assistance. As such, there are few Recipients applying for FEMA assistance for the first time. Because of this, it appears that this Guide could be most useful for local governments without recovery experience and can be used to help train new staff quickly at the local, state, and federal level on the basics.

Overall, this Guide is a beneficial tool for preparedness purposes and as a general guide following a disaster, as it gives a bird’s-eye view of FEMA programs, policies, and procedures.  With the number of disasters steadily rising across the country, simple tools like the FEMA New Recipients of Disaster Grants Guide will prove even more necessary. It is likely that more guides like this will come as FEMA tries to empower states, tribes, and territories. This is all towards FEMA’s push towards disaster preparedness, response, and recovery that is federally supported, state managed, and locally executed.

Hagerty Consulting is an emergency management consulting firm that helps our clients prepare for and recover from disasters. Established in 2001, Hagerty Consulting’s work includes some of the nation’s largest recovery and preparedness projects in more than 30 states, including 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and Hurricane Sandy.  You can learn more about our disaster recovery practice here.

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