...document of your disaster recov- ery, the project worksheet; certi- fication and validation of small projects; appeals; and a discussion of key deadlines.
This issue will provide information to get your organization on track for the funding it requires, and provide you with the rules of the game for keeping your project on course in the event of challenges.
As we have emphasized in previous issues, it is extremely important to develop a good channel of communication with those personnel from the state and FEMA assigned to assist with your recovery; however, sometimes that is difficult due to the nature of the work. The applicant usually has very specific considerations that need to fit into a model of federal public assistance designed to help under broad circumstances.
A source of disagreement can develop early—with issues such as eligibility, scope of repairs, or interpretation of regulations.
Another source of difficulty could be the manner in which an applicant conducts their business and how this translates into the resources and priorities the applicant gives to correctly assess the damage scope and write up the grant application.
It becomes difficult to maintain a good flow of communication simply due to the fact that the FEMA staff assigned to an applicant can rotate in and out, sometimes as often as every two weeks.
In general, the state and FEMA will assemble their team which is comprised of a Public Assistance Coordinator (PAC), State Public Assistance Coordinator/Liaison (PAC/PAL), Project Officer (PO) and Technical Assistance Contractors (TACs) who may specialize in the areas of debris, accounting, buildings and equipment, roads and bridges, or mitigation.
The FEMA Policy Digest describes the PAC as “a customer service manager who works with the applicant to resolve disaster- related needs and ensure that the applicant’s projects are processed as efficiently and expeditiously as possible. By being involved from the declaration to the obligation of funds, the PAC ensures continuity of service throughout the delivery of the public assistance program.”
The FEMA Applicant Handbook uses the term “Applicant Liaison” to describe the state’s equivalent of a PAC: “The liaison is the state’s customer service representative assigned to work with you and the [FEMA] PAC. The liaison is responsible for providing you with specific information on state regulations, documentation and reporting requirements. The liaison is also there to provide technical assistance, when requested...”
The PO is the person responsible for handling day-to-day activities including Project Worksheet (PW) formulation and development, eligibility determinations, field inspections, small project validation, etc. The PO is also responsible for identifying areas that require special expertise and requesting the necessary specialists to assist. Ideally an applicant and their PO will meet several times a week, if not daily.
According to the FEMA Applicant Handbook , Technical Assistance Contractor (TAC) is the term used to describe specialists from engineering firms nationwide that FEMA keeps on stand-by contract. The TACs provide specific skills and services relative to the particular needs of a Public Assistance program and support FEMA staff with additional expertise.
In light of possible difficulties in maintaining smooth, open communication, the need to document each step of the process is critical. As a rule, each time an applicant meets with the PAC, or another FEMA representative, the exchange should be documented.
Promptly after completion of any meeting or conversation, an applicant should develop and forward a Memorandum of...