California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

Integrated Waste Management Disaster Plan

Chapter 16 - Federal Public Assistance Program (Sections 1-5)

Background: The Federal Public Assistance Program provides supplementary assistance to public entities--state, and local governments and certain eligible private non-profit organizations. The Federal Response Plan is activated only after a Presidential Declaration of a Major Disaster or Emergency. Refer to Chapter 1, Government Coordination, for a discussion of the Federal Response Plan.

Contents: This chapter contains 10 sections:

1 Required Steps
2 Work Categories
3 Federal assistance to state and local governments
4 Regulations Governing Disaster Assistance
5 Debris Removal Guidelines
  Debris Eligibility Criteria
  Debris Removal Eligibility
6 Public Assistance Building Demolition Program
  Health and Safety
  Attractive Nuisance
  Health Hazard
  Buy-out Program
7 Damage Assessment and Damage Survey Reports
8 Environmental Review Requirements
9 Hazard Mitigation
10 Historic Review Requirements

1: Required steps

In order to receive federal assistance, a local agency must take the following steps after a disaster or emergency:

1 The local government must issue a Local Declaration of an emergency within 10 days after the emergency.
2 The Governor must issue a State of Emergency Proclamation.
3 The President must issue Declaration of a Major Disaster or Emergency.


  • Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act;
  • Title 44, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 206 State Administrative Plan for Public Assistance.


  • state agencies;
  • counties;
  • cities;
  • special districts;
  • schools K-12;
  • colleges and higher education; and
  • certain private non-profit organizations that provide essential governmental service to the general public are eligible.

Work Eligibility Work must be:

  • required as a result of a declared major disaster event;
  • located within a designated disaster area;
  • legal responsibility of an eligible subgrantee; and
  • must not duplicate benefits from other federal agencies. 

2: Work categories

Damage categories: The following work categories are used by both the state and federal governments relative to funding through the Stafford Act and the Natural Disaster Assistance Act. Local governments must use these categories when preparing damage survey reports and in tracking state and federal disaster or emergency-related expenditures.

For management purposes, FEMA has established the following categories of damage:

  • Emergency Work = Categories A and B for emergency actions
  • Permanent Work = Categories C through G for permanent repair, restoration and replacement.
Work Categories Purpose Completion Deadlines*
Category A Debris removal and disposal



Clearance of debris and wreckage from publicly and privately owned land and waters.

Clean-out of reservoirs, debris catch basin, streams, and opening channels or facilities.

Measures undertaken to preserve public health and safety and to eliminate threats to public or private property.

6 months
Category B Emergency Protective Measures Measures undertaken to preserve public health and safety and to eliminate threats to public or private property. 6 months
Category C Road Systems Eligible facilities include any construction features within the public right of way that are essential to make the road or street functional, such as:


Drainage structures


Safety features

18 months
Category D Water Control Facilities Flood control, drainage, and irrigation works which are operated, controlled or maintained by an eligible subgrantee may be eligible for repair, restoration, or replacement.

Examples include:

Dikes and levees

Irrigation Works

Drainage Channels

Debris Basins

18 months
Category E Public Buildings and Equipment Public buildings and related equipment, owned or maintained by an eligible subgrantee, which are damaged or destroyed, are eligible to the extent not covered by insurance.

Also included are:

Office equipment

Furnishings and equipment

Consumable supplies

Library books and publications

18 months
Category F Public Utilities Includes the permanent repair, restoration, or replacement of water, power, or sewage systems, to the extent necessary t restore services, in accordance with current codes, specifications, and standards. 18 months
Category G Other Includes the permanent repair, restoration, or replacement of park facilities such as playgrounds, swimming pools, boat docks, tennis courts, picnic tables, etc.

Note: This category also used to report items that are not included in the other categories.

18 months

*dates established from date of major disaster declaration

**With justification, the Governor's Authorized Representative may extend completion deadlines.

Time Extensions With justification, the Governor's Authorized Representative may extend completion deadlines.

Category Extension What to do Information to include
Debris Removal 6 months of date of disaster If projects (DSR categories A-B) extend beyond these deadlines, submit a time extension request to OES. Reference the DSR number and category for each project requiring an extension. Include justification as to why the project could not be completed within the deadline.
Emergency Protective Measures 6 months of date of disaster If projects (DSR categories A-B) extend beyond these deadlines, submit a time extension request to OES. Reference the DSR number and category for each project requiring an extension. Include justification as to why the project could not be completed within the deadline.
Permanent Work 18 months of the declaration date

30 months on a project-by-project basis

If permanent projects (DSR categories C-G) extend beyond these deadlines, submit a time extension request to OES. Reference the DSR number and category for each project requiring an extension. Include justification as to why the project could not be completed within the deadline.

Additional extensions are subject to FEMA approval.

Remember: Costs are allowed only to date of last approved time extension.

Emergency work: Public interest defined as measures necessary to:

  • Eliminate or lessen immediate threats to life, public health, or safety, or threats of significant additional damage to improved public or private property; or
  • Ensure economic recovery of community at large.

Permanent restoration: Work undertaken to restore eligible facilities on the basis of the design of such facilities, as such facilities existed immediately prior to the disaster, in conformity with current codes and standards.

Administrative costs: Allowance for necessary costs of requesting, obtaining, and administering federal disaster assistance sub-grants

Sliding Scale: The declining percentage for administrative allowance is based upon the total dollar value of the federal assistance provided (sum of the federal share of all obligated DSRs).

Total $ value of federal assistance provided Administrative Allowance
First $100,000 3 percent
Over $100,000 to $1,000,000 2 percent
Over $1,000,000 to $5,000,000 1 percent
Over $5,000,000 .5 percent

3: Federal assistance to state and local governments

Briefings: OES conducts briefings for state, local, and private non-profit organizations as soon as practicable after the declaration of a major disaster or emergency. The purpose is to provide information on the types of assistance available and the means by which funds are provided. Applications for assistance (Notice of Interest) are usually accepted at these briefings to expedite the application process.

Inspection team: Federal/State/local team inspects every damaged site listed on the applicant's Exhibit B (List of Projects) submitted with the Notice of Interest.

Damage survey reports: After inspections by the Federal/State/local inspection team, the Federal inspector prepares a Damage Survey Report (DSR). The DSR identifies the project and its location and provides a recommended scope of work and estimated cost in accordance with FEMA eligibility criteria.

Eligible applicants: Eligible applicants for assistance are:

  • State governmental agencies/departments;
  • local governments;
  • Indian tribes or authorized tribal organizations;
  • Alaska native villages or organizations; and
  • qualifying private nonprofit institutions within the designated disaster area.

Non-profits: Eligible private non profit institutions are:

  • educational,
  • utility,
  • emergency,
  • medical,
  • custodial care, and
  • those providing essential services of a governmental nature.

Assistance for emergency declaration

Under an emergency declaration, assistance may be approved for:

  • public health and safety,
  • emergency measures necessary to save lives,
  • clearance of debris,
  • protection of property, and
  • to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe,
  • limited to $5 million (may be increased), and
  • Governor must request within 5 days of the emergency.

Assistance for major disaster declaration

Under a major disaster declaration, assistance may be approved to fund a variety of projects, including:

  • Must be requested by Governor within 30 days following the incident;
  • Clearance of debris, when in the public interest, on public or private land or waters;
  • Emergency protective measures for the preservation of life and property;
  • Repair or replacement of roads, streets and bridges;
  • Repair or replacement of water control facilities (dikes, levees, irrigation works, and drainage facilities);
  • Repair or replacement of public buildings and related equipment
  • Repair or replacement of public utilities; and
  • Repair or restoration of recreational facilities and parks.

Compliance requirements: The applicant must comply with appropriate hazard mitigation, environmental protection and floodplain management regulations as a condition for receiving Federal disaster assistance.

Other forms of assistance: Other forms of assistance that may be made available  under a Presidential declaration or a major disaster include:

  • Community disaster loans from FEMA to communities that may suffer a substantial loss of tax and other revenues and can demonstrate a need for financial assistance in order to perform their governmental functions;
  • Repairs and operating assistance to public elementary and secondary schools by the Department of Education;
  • Use of federal equipment, supplies, facilities, personnel, and other resources (other than the extension of credit) from various Federal agencies;
  • Repairs to Federal-aid system roads when authorized by the Department of Transportation; and
  • Repairs to projects when authorized by the United States Army Corps of Engineers or the Soil Conservation Services.

4: Regulations governing disaster assistance

Background: Upon the declaration of a local emergency or a state or federal disaster, state and federal assistance programs become available to help affected states and their jurisdictions in the recovery process.

Regulations: The regulations governing the public, infrastructure, and individual assistance programs administered by the state and federal governments are listed below.

Be prepared: It is a good idea to regularly review updates to these regulations as they may have an effect on the types of programs funded and the funding allocated.

Know what you're entitled to: Know the kinds of assistance your jurisdiction is  entitled to and the conditions for receiving that assistance. Keeping current with the most recent changes to the regulations can help when developing the Damage Survey Reports (DSRs) with FEMA.

DSRs: The DSRs serve as the basis for FEMA and OES reimbursement for the recovery work to be performed and the costs associated with that work.

Federal Regulations
The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act This act summarizes the process and procedures for declaration, response, and recovery during federally declared disasters.
Code of Federal Regulations Title 44 Part 13 - Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Cooperative Agreements to State and Local Governments:
  • Subpart A - General,
  • Subpart B - Pre-Award Requirements,
  • Subpart C - Post-Award Requirements,
  • Subpart D - After-the-Grant Requirements
These regulations describe the administrative procedures and requirements for subgrantees receiving federal funding and awarding contracts for disaster-related repairs
Code of Federal Regulations Title 44 Part 206 - Federal Disaster Assistance for Disasters Declared on or after November 23, 1988:
  • Subpart G - Public Assistance Project Administration,
  • Subpart H - Public Assistance Eligibility,
  • Subpart I - Public Assistance Insurance Requirements,
  • Subpart J - Coastal Barrier Resources Act,
  • Subpart K - Community Disaster Loans,
  • Subpart M - Hazard Mitigation Planning,
  • Subpart N - Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.
These sections describe rules and requirements for Public Assistance Project Administration, applicant and work eligibility, and hazard mitigation.
State Regulations
The California Natural Disaster Assistance Act - Chapter 7.5

The California Natural Disaster Assistance Act - Title 19, Subchapter 5

This act outlines provisions for state disaster assistance.
Office of Budget and Management Publications
Circular A-87 - Cost Principles for State and Local Governments

Circular A-122 - Cost Principles for Nonprofit Organizations

Circular A-128 - Audits of State and Local Governments

These publications provide information on eligible reimbursable costs and audit requirements for eligible subgrantees.

5: Debris removal guidelines [1]

Source: Debris Management Course (pilot), Reference Manual, Emergency Management Institute, FEMA.

What's eligible: Upon the Presidential declaration a major disaster or emergency, Federal assistance is available. FEMA designates the area eligible for assistance and the types of assistance available.

FEMA may grant assistance for:

  • debris removal,
  • emergency protective measures, and
  • the permanent restoration of facilities.

Contents: The following information is presented below:

Subsection Topic
A Debris Eligibility Criteria
B Debris Removal Guidelines

A: Debris eligibility criteria

Must be for: Debris removal and emergency protective measures must be necessary to:

  • Eliminate immediate threats of life, public health, and safety; or
  • Eliminate immediate threats of significant damage to improved public or private property.

The following criteria apply to all types of work and to all applicants. There may be additional criteria for specific types of work or facilities.

Debris Eligibility Criteria Basic criteria for all assistance to be eligible are that work or expenses must be:

  • A result of the declared event and not of a pre-disaster condition or some other event
    • Direct result. The work must be required as a direct result of the declared event--severe storm, flooding, earthquake, etc.
    • An "incident period" established by FEMA after consultation with the Governor's Authorized Representative generally begins at the start of the event and lasts as long as necessary to include all normal damages from the event.
    • Primarily, damages that occur during the incident period, or are the direct result of events that occurred during the incident period, will be considered for eligibility.
    • In addition, protective measures and other preparation activities performed within a reasonable time in advance of the event will also be considered.
    • Damages that occur after the close of an incident period but can be tied directly to the declared event may also be eligible.
  • Be within the area designated by FEMA as eligible for assistance.
    • Designated area. The damages must have occurred, or the work or activity may be performed or support the performance of such work, within the designated disaster area.
    • When a declaration of a major disaster is made for a State, the Associate Director designates those counties of the State that are eligible for assistance.
    • The type of assistance is also specified: public assistance (for State and local governments and for Public Non-Profit organizations) and individual assistance (for individuals and families).
    • Different counties may be eligible for one or both types of assistance, depending on the needs of the area.
  • Be the legal responsibility of the applicant.
    • Responsibility. The work or expense must be the legal responsibility of the applicant. Generally, ownership of a facility is sufficient to establish responsibility for repairs a facility.
    • Mutual aid agreements between local governments or between a local government and the State may establish the responsibility for reimbursement by the government receiving the assistance.
  • Not eligible for assistance under another Federal program.
    • Cost. Reasonable costs directly attributed to a project are generally eligible. They include labor, materials, and equipment costs when the applicant performs the work itself (force account)or contracts awarded for the work.

B: Debris removal eligibility

Includes: Debris that may be eligible for clearance and removal includes:

  • trees,
  • sand and gravel,
  • building wreckage,
  • vehicles,
  • personal property, etc.

Must be for: To be eligible for FEMA assistance, such removal must be necessary to do one of the following:

  • Eliminate immediate threats of life, public health, and safety; or
  • Eliminate immediate threats of significant damage to improved public or private property.
  • Ensure economic recovery of the affected community to the benefit of the community-at-large

Debris Removal Guidelines

  • Debris removal from public property
    • Debris that is on public property must be removed to allow continued safe operation of governmental functions and , therefore, if eligible under one of the first two criteria.
    • However, not all public property clearance is necessarily eligible.
  • Private property
    • This is the responsibility of the individual property owner aided by insurance settlements and assistance from volunteer agencies.
    • Most homeowner fire and extended coverage insurance policies have specific coverage for debris removal and demolition of heavily damaged structures.
    • FEMA assistance is not available to reimburse private property owners for the cost of removing debris from their property.
    • However, an eligible local or State may government may pick up and dispose of disaster-related debris placed at the curb by those private individuals.
    • If the debris on private business and residential property is so widespread that public health, safety, or the economic recovery of the community is threatened, the actual removal of debris from the private property may be eligible. In such situations, the work normally must be done or contracted by an eligible applicant.
  • Drainage structures
    • Debris removal from certain drainage structures may have to meet the following criteria:
    • Reservoirs: may be eligible in accordance with the criteria for debris basins below. Removal of debris that poses an immediate threat of clogging or damaging intake or adjacent structures may be eligible.
    • Natural streams: Not normally eligible for assistance. Only debris that causes a threat to lives or public health and safety or damage to improved property from a 5-year flood event is eligible.
    • Engineered channels and debris basins: May be eligible. The pre-disaster level of debris in the channel or basin is of particular importance to determine the amount of disaster-related debris
  • Roads and Highways
    • Debris may be cleared from roads and highways, including the travel lanes and shoulders, roadside ditches and drainage structures, and the maintained right-of-way.
    • Clearance from Federal-aid roads and highways follows these criteria except when the Emergency Relief (ER) program of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is activated.
    • Debris on undamaged sections of highway may be eligible for FEMA assistance.
  • Recreational and Wilderness Areas
    • Debris removal is eligible when it affects public health or safety or proper utilization of such facilities.
    • Trees frequently constitute a large part of debris in these areas, and special guidance is noted below:
    • Debris in wilderness or forested areas of these facilities that does not pose a health or safety threat is not eligible.
    • Hazardous trees within a naturalized area of parks or golf courses that are unstable and leaning into the areas used by the public are eligible for removal only, not replacement.
    • Generally, stump removal should not be considered eligible for reimbursement except when a tree eligible for replacement must be replanted in the same spot of it is determined that the stump itself would be a hazard.

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Last updated: December 8, 2004
Disaster Preparedness and Response
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