Detailed documentation must remain a priority
The simplified procedures should not be mistaken as a reason to ease up on documentation best practices. It is imperative that applicants follow documentation requirements because FEMA can de-obligate funds if requirements are not met. Remember, FEMA defines an applicant as, “a state, territory, tribe, local government, or certain type of private nonprofit organization” that is “submitting a request for assistance under the recipient's federal award.”
With the project threshold increased to $1 million, there is increased likelihood that FEMA or OIG will audit documentation records. Thus, applicants must continue to provide detailed information regarding the damage description and dimensions, scope of work, and cost estimate to include any applicable soft costs. As always, applicants are also encouraged to consider and implement hazard mitigation to reduce or eliminate future similar damages.
Double-check documentation requirements
The applicant must also check with the recipient’s documentation requirements as they may be more stringent than FEMA requirements. FEMA defines a recipient as, “the state, territorial, or tribal government that receives and manages the federal award under the disaster declaration and disburses funding to eligible subrecipients.” Appendix A of the simplified procedures provides clear instructions on all documentation that must be retained for any small project.
Keep Environmental and Historic Preservation (EHP) requirements in mind
In the weeks and months following a disaster, local emergency agencies are often focused on the safety of their communities and overlook important compliance measures. They may be eager to show recovery progress and fail to comply with requirements such as EHP reviews.
The new policy requires the applicant to identify and estimate costs for environmental and historic requirements before FEMA EHP does its review. However, this does not mean that construction can begin before a FEMA EHP review. FEMA retains its right to de-obligate funds if an applicant begins construction before FEMA EHP review or if the applicant cannot properly demonstrate EHP compliance.
We’ve seen many instances of FEMA de-obligating funds at closeout due to a lack of agency consultation or permit. Without a timely FEMA EHP review, applicants are at high risk of losing project funding. Additional information regarding EHP reviews can be found in the FEMA Public Assistance Appeals Database.