As I travel around the country working with FEMA’s Public Assistance Program, I am often perplexed by the low turnout among nonprofits in our program in times of disasters. The FEMA Public Assistance Program is authorized by Congress to work with nonprofits in presidential declared disasters, but we cannot work with the nonprofits if we do not know you’re out there. Here is brief description of the program and what you can do to stay informed and take part in the program.
Nonprofits across America- There are about 1.6 million nonprofits agencies across America. However, my research and my experience has shown that less than 1% of nonprofits actually take part in the FEMA Public Assistance Program. I attribute this to nonprofit managers not being informed about the program and emergency managers unable to reach out to all the nonprofits in their community. Now, not all nonprofits are eligible for the program, however, if you’re not communicating with FEMA and your local emergency manager, then your chances of participation are zero.
FEMA Public Assistance Program- The FEMA Public Assistance program wants to work with nonprofits. However, there are several caveats that will come with regards to insurance and the Small Business Administration. FEMA will assign a specialist to work with your agency and will explain these caveats to you in further detail. The Specialist will work with you to develop grants called project worksheets which FEMA will use to fund your agency. When I am working with agencies, I like to joke that I am turning small piles of paperwork into large piles of paperwork.
What FEMA can do for your agency- FEMA can pay for many costs that your nonprofit may incur such as the costs to remove debris, emergency protective measures such as mold remediation, relocation costs, generators, food and water and many other expenses. However, if you’re not communicating with FEMA and your local emergency manager and letting us know you’re nonprofit is out there, then you will not get any funding.
What you can do- To participate in the program is really very simple. In times of severe weather, stay in contact with your local emergency manager and report your damages to them. FEMA depends on the local emergency managers gathering up reports of local damages and reporting them up to the State Emergency Manager and FEMA. If you do not tell anyone about the damages or costs that your nonprofit has incurred, then no one will ever know.
Save your receipts- FEMA reimburses agencies and nonprofits based on their costs incurred or on the costs that are estimated to repair damaged infrastructure. If your agency incurs a cost that is disaster related, keep track of those costs. The FEMA Specialist will work with those to draft your grants and turn copies of those receipts into help your agency get funded.
If you would like to read more about how FEMA works with FEMA follow this link to FEMA’s Public Assistance Guide, which will give you more details on the program. If you’re interested in reading my research, see my follow on article entitled “The Federal Emergency Management Agency and its Collaboration with the Nonprofit Community.”
And, you can always email me!