What is a FEMA emergency declaration?July 07, 2021
As hurricane season hits full swing, your properties may be subject to damage as disasters impact areas where your assets reside. To aid in recovery and response to a major disaster, mortgage servicers will want to pay close attention to the actions taken by local governments, in addition to those taken by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
A disaster declaration is a formal statement by the jurisdiction’s chief public official (i.e. Mayor, County Judge, or Governor) that a disaster or emergency situation exceeds their response capabilities.
A FEMA Emergency Declaration is generally requested when the state and local governments need help responding to an emergency or disaster, however no long term recovery assistance is needed. With this, generally, only disaster response programs are at the disposal of the state government following an Emergency Declaration. The President may downgrade a Governor’s Major Disaster Declaration request to an Emergency Declaration if they believe the former is not warranted.
According to the FEMA website, if it is apparent that a Presidential disaster declaration may be necessary to assist in the recovery of the impacted area, the State or Indian tribal government should contact their FEMA Regional Office and request a joint Federal, State/Tribal Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA). Local government representatives should be included, if possible.
Together, the team will conduct a thorough assessment of the impacted area to determine:
- The extent of the disaster
- Its impact on individuals and public facilities
- The types of federal assistance that may be needed
- This information is included in the Governor or Tribal Chief Executive’s request to show that the disaster is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and the affected local governments or Indian tribal government and that supplemental federal assistance is necessary.
Though commonly addressed after a disaster, a declaration may be made if a disaster is “imminent.” A disaster declaration is not wide sweeping though. Each level of government (county, state, and federal) will tailor their disaster declaration to include only the area(s) impacted by the disaster. Because Emergency Management in the United States takes a “bottom-up” approach to response, cities will proclaim a disaster declaration, followed by a county, then state, then the federal government.
Once a disaster declaration is issued, it is promptly recorded into the public record and disseminated to the general public. There are two types of disaster declarations you need to be aware of: emergency declarations and major disaster declarations. Both declaration types authorize the President to provide supplemental federal disaster assistance, according to FEMA’s website. However, the events related to the two different types of declaration, scope and amount of assistance differ.
*Information pulled from the FEMA website
The President can declare an emergency for any occasion or instance when the President determines federal assistance is needed. Emergency declarations supplement State and local or Indian tribal government efforts in providing emergency services, such as the protection of lives, property, public health, and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in any part of the United States. The total amount of assistance provided for in a single emergency may not exceed $5 million. The President shall report to Congress if this amount is exceeded.
The Governor of the affected State or Tribal Chief Executive of the affected Tribe must submit a request to the President, through the appropriate Regional Administrator, within 30 days of the occurrence of the incident. The request must be based upon a finding that the situation is beyond the capability of the State and affected local governments or Indian tribal government and that supplemental federal emergency assistance is necessary to save lives and protect property, public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a disaster. In addition, the request must include:
- Confirmation that the Governor or Tribal Chief Executive has taken appropriate action under State or Tribal law and directed the execution of the State or Tribal emergency plan;
- A description of the State and local or Indian tribal government efforts and resources utilized to alleviate the emergency;
- A description of other federal agency efforts and resources utilized in response to the emergency; and
- A description of the type and extent of additional federal assistance required.
- Public Assistance (PA) – Only Categories A (debris removal) and B (emergency protective measures) may be authorized under an emergency declaration. Categories C-G (permanent work) are not available under an emergency declaration. Emergency declarations often include only Category B and will typically be limited to DFA, absent damage assessments showing significant need for financial assistance. This assistance is generally provided on a 75% federal, 25% non-federal cost sharing basis.
- Individual Assistance (IA) – The Individuals and Households Program (IHP) is the only form of IA that may be authorized under an emergency declaration. Authorization of IHP under an emergency is rare. Housing Assistance under IHP is provided at a 100% federal share, while Other Needs Assistance under IHP requires a 25% non-federal cost share.
A Governor or Tribal Chief Executive may request an emergency declaration in advance or anticipation of the imminent impact of an incident that threatens such destruction as could result in a major disaster. Such requests must meet all of the statutory and regulatory requirements for an emergency declaration request. Requests must demonstrate the existence of critical emergency protective measure needs prior to impact are beyond the capability of the State and affected local governments or Indian tribal government and identify specific unmet emergency needs that can be met through DFA. Such DFA may include, but is not limited to, personnel, equipment, supplies, and evacuation assistance. Pre-positioning of assets generally does not require a declaration. Assistance made available under a pre-disaster emergency declaration will typically be Category B (emergency protective measures), limited to DFA. FEMA may require damage assessments and/or verified cost estimates if additional types of assistance are requested.
Major Disaster Declarations
The President can declare a major disaster for any natural event, including any hurricane, tornado, storm, high water, wind-driven water, tidal wave, tsunami, earthquake, volcanic eruption, landslide, mudslide, snowstorm, or drought, or, regardless of cause, fire, flood, or explosion, that the President determines has caused damage of such severity that it is beyond the combined capabilities of state and local governments to respond. A major disaster declaration provides a wide range of federal assistance programs for individuals and public infrastructure, including funds for both emergency and permanent work.
The Governor of the affected State or Tribal Chief Executive of the affected Tribe must submit the request to the President through the appropriate Regional Administrator within 30 days of the occurrence of the incident. The request must based upon a finding that the situation is beyond the capability of the State and affected local governments or Indian tribal government and that supplemental federal assistance is necessary. In addition the request must include:
- Confirmation that the Governor or Tribal Chief Executive has taken appropriate action under State or Tribal law and directed execution of the State or Tribal emergency plan;
- An estimate of the amount and severity of damage to the public and private sector;
- A description of the State and local or Indian tribal government efforts and resources utilized to alleviate the disaster;
- Preliminary estimates of the type and amount of Stafford Act assistance needed; and
- Certification by the Governor or Tribal Chief Executive that the State and local governments or Indian tribal government will comply with all applicable cost sharing requirements.
Not all programs, however, are activated for every disaster. The determination of which programs are authorized is based on the types of assistance specified in the Governor or Tribal Chief Executive’s request and the needs identified during the joint PDA and subsequent PDAs. FEMA disaster assistance programs are as follows:
- Individual Assistance - Assistance to individuals and households, which may include:
- Individuals and Households Program;
- Crisis Counseling Program
- Disaster Case Management
- Disaster Unemployment Assistance
- Disaster Legal Services
- Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
- Public Assistance - Assistance to State, Tribal, and local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations for emergency work and the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged facilities, which may include the following Categories:
- A - Debris removal
- B - Emergency protective measures
- C – Roads and bridges
- D – Water control facilities
- E – Buildings and equipment
- F – Utilities
- G – Parks, recreational and other facilities
Factors: When evaluating requests for major disasters and making recommendations to the President, FEMA considers the following factors:
Public Assistance Program
- Estimated cost of the assistance – FEMA evaluates the estimated cost of Federal and non-Federal public assistance against the population to give some measure of the per capita impact. FEMA uses a per capita amount as an indicator that the disaster is of such severity and magnitude that it might warrant Federal assistance, and adjusts this figure annually, based on the Consumer Price Index.
- Localized impacts - FEMA evaluates the impact of the disaster at the county and local government levels, as well as at the American Indian and Alaskan Native Tribal Government levels, because, at times, there are extraordinary concentrations of damages that might warrant Federal assistance even if the statewide per capita is not met. This is particularly true where critical facilities (such as major roadways, bridges, public buildings, etc.) are affected or where localized per capita impacts are extremely high. For example, localized damages may be in the tens or even hundreds of dollars per capita, even though the overall per capita impact is low.
- Insurance coverage in force – FEMA considers the amount of insurance coverage that is in force or should have been in force as required by law and regulation at the time of the disaster, and reduces the amount of anticipated assistance by that amount.
- Hazard Mitigation – To recognize and encourage mitigation, FEMA considers the extent to which mitigation measures contributed to the reduction of disaster damages. This could be especially significant in those disasters where, because of mitigation, the estimated public assistance damages fell below the per capita indicator.
- Recent multiple disasters – FEMA also considers the disaster history within the last twelve-month period to better evaluate the overall impact. FEMA considers declarations under the Stafford Act as well as declarations by the Governor or Chief Tribal Executive and to the extent they have expended their own funds.
- Other federal agency assistance programs – FEMA also considers programs of other Federal agencies because at times their assistance programs more appropriately meet the needs created by the disaster.
Individual Assistance Program
- State fiscal capacity and resource availability
- Uninsured home and personal property losses impacted
- Disaster impacted population profile special populations
- Impact to community infrastructure
- Disaster related unemployment
- Post Declaration Actions
- Add-ons: The Governor, the Governor’s Authorized Representative (GAR), or Tribal Chief Executive can request designation of additional counties and programs within 30 days of the declaration or the end of the incident period, whichever is later. The Governor, GAR, or Tribal Chief Executive may submit an extension request within the 30-day period, providing a valid reason supporting an extension.
- Cost Share Adjustments: The authority to adjust the Public Assistance cost share resides with the President. FEMA will recommend an increase in the federal share to not more than 90% for Public Assistance when a disaster is so extraordinary that actual federal obligations under the Stafford Act, excluding administrative cost, meet or exceed a qualifying threshold.7
- Appeals: Post declaration determinations are generally subject to a one-time appeal. Such appeals must be submitted within 30 days of the denial letter. This deadline may be extended by FEMA, upon request of the State or Indian tribal government. Extension requests must be submitted within the 30 day deadline.
Safeguard Properties strives to continually provide the most current information on disasters as they occur. No matter the form they take — fires, tornadoes, hurricanes or floods — all of them can cause a tremendous amount of damage to your assets.
Our online Disaster Alert Center to stay up to date on when large-scale disasters strike, and the actions being taken in response. Visit https://safeguardproperties.com/disaster-alert-center/ for the latest information.
The 2022 Atlantic hurricane season officially began on June 1, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service,…
Late last year, Safeguard Properties began contracting with the Military Warriors Support Foundation (MWSF), a non-profit organization that provides a variety of programs for our nation’s combat…