Emergency Relief Manual
Chapter III - Emergency Relief Application Process
The decision to seek ER financial assistance rests with the State. Local highway agencies do not deal with the FHWA directly but must make their application through the State. The State has the option to determine whether it will seek ER funding for repair of either State or local agency owned Federal-aid highways.
The State and local transportation agencies are empowered to begin emergency repairs immediately to restore essential traffic service and to prevent further damage to Federal-aid highway facilities. Properly documented costs will later be reimbursed once the State formally requests ER funding, and the FHWA Division Administrator makes a finding that the disaster is eligible for ER funds.
There are two methods for developing and processing a State request for ER funding as described in this chapter. The first method is labeled as "Traditional" since it is the normal process used to develop a funding request. The second method, the "Quick Release" method, employs a process to immediately deliver ER assistance for large disasters very quickly. The quick release method should not be used as a matter of routine and is intended to provide a "down payment" on overall ER needs immediately following a large scale disaster.
- Method 1. Traditional
- Preliminary Steps - The Governor issues a formal proclamation of the existence of a disaster. A Presidential declaration, or the Governor's request for this declaration, can serve the same purpose. The State then files a letter of intent to apply for ER funding with the FHWA Division Office in the State, and the Division Office acknowledges the letter. These actions are described in Chapter IV.
- Disaster Assessment - Detailed damage inspections are conducted at many, if not all, sites. Alternatively, initial damage assessments could be based on windshield surveys at a sampling of sites as described in Chapter V. When conducting windshield surveys, at least one site is visited in each county involved in the event. Windshield surveys may be used under this method to expedite the funding request process. If windshield surveys are used initially, detailed damage inspections should be completed at a later time. Since windshield surveys may not provide the required accuracy of damage funding needs, requests based on windshield surveys should be conservative with an additional follow-up request submitted based on more refined assessments. Disaster assessments are described further in Chapter V.
- Formal State Request for ER Funding and Damage Survey Summary Report - The State requests ER funding based on the detailed damage inspections, the windshield surveys, or a combination of both. The State's request, along with the information from the site inspections and the FHWA Division Office's recommendations, are submitted for a finding by the FHWA Division Administrator. This process is described in Chapter IV.
- Length of Time to Develop Application - Typically, the above steps would be accomplished over a 6 to 10-week period. If windshield surveys alone are used to expedite the process, then the above steps may be accomplished over a 2-3 week period.
- Division Administrator's Finding - For events approved for ER funding, the Division Administrator issues a letter to the head of the State transportation agency notifying the State of the approval. Concurrently, the FHWA Division requests the FHWA Headquarters Office of Program Administration, either by memorandum or e-mail, to allocate ER funds. If the request is made by e-mail, it must be sent to the Office of Program Administration official mailbox (FHWA, ProgramAdministration) with a copy to the ER Program Manager. The request, as a minimum, must include date of approval and brief description of the event, estimated cost of damage repair and the Federal share, the ER obligation need for the current FY, list of counties, and the U.S. Congressional district numbers (see sample request memorandum in Appendix A). Additional ER funding will be made available to the State as needs arise. The Division Administrator will notify the State transportation agency of any events that are denied ER funding.
- Method 2. Quick Release
- Preliminary Steps - Same as Method 1, although the State's letter of intent and request for an ER finding may be combined into a single document.
- Disaster Assessment - For the purposes of an ER application, few, if any, on-site damage surveys are made. Instead, the disaster assessment is based on other readily available information, such as credible media reports or aerial surveys done by the State.
Formal State Request for ER Funding and Damage Survey Summary Report - For the purposes of the ER application, the State requests ER funding based on their preliminary assessment of the extent of damage. The request is done in a brief letter to the Division Office. No Damage Survey Summary Report is prepared to accompany the ER application. A sample State letter is provided in Appendix F.
The Division Office makes a finding of eligibility of the event based on the readily available reliable information on the extent and severity of the damage. The Office of Program Administration in Headquarters is available for consultation as needed. A request for an initial allocation of ER funds is made to the Office Of Program Administration, usually for a modest amount only intended to start the flow of ER funds to the State for initial emergency repair costs the State is incurring. Supplemental allocations would follow at later dates. The determination of an appropriate initial allocation amount is typically discussed by phone between FHWA Division Office staff and staff from FHWA Headquarters who administer the ER program.
The State transportation agency should prepare and submit an abbreviated Damage Survey Summary Report to the Division Office after most of the detailed damage inspections have been completed. The report can be as simple as a summary of eligible estimated ER costs by county. This report must provide support for supplemental allocations of ER funds for permanent repairs as well as providing a summary of the counties involved in the disaster and an overall estimate of ER eligible repair costs.
- Length of Time to Develop Application - Typically, the above steps would be accomplished over a 1 to 2-day period.
- Division Administrator's Finding - Same as Method 1.
- Detailed damage Inspections - Such inspections are completed at a later date, most likely after the Division Administrator has made a finding of ER eligibility for the event. These detailed damage inspections of sites at a later date aid in eligibility determinations and approval of a program of projects. At this point in time, it is likely that a refined estimate of ER funding need would be provided to FHWA Headquarters to facilitate a more accurate allocation of funds.
- Additional Considerations - The "quick release" method is not appropriate for all disasters. In general, it is used for larger disasters where extensive damage is readily evident and where there is a desire, both by the Administration and a State, to have ER resources flowing quickly to the State.
- Two Disasters Treated as One
Although unusual, disasters can occur so closely in time that the damage to roads and bridges is difficult or impossible to evaluate and tabulate as separate events. Many facilities in the same area may suffer damage from a second disaster before the survey teams have evaluated the damage caused by the earlier event. In these situations, the data supporting the magnitude and extensiveness of the second occurrence should be supported in the regular manner; but the request submitted should ask that the two disasters be recognized as a single event. This may, of course, not be desirable if one or both disasters are potentially subject to the $100 million per State cap. In this instance, survey teams should make a "best estimate" of damage to be attributed to each event. Also, it should be noted that where two disasters are treated as one, there is only one 180-day period covering the 100 percent Federal share for the combined event; this period beginning with the occurrence date of the first disaster.
Granting a request to treat two disasters as one will simplify the processing of the necessary repair or reconstruction projects by having a single ER finding for all projects resulting from the two disasters. The Governor's second proclamation should cover both disasters. However, the supporting data must prove that facilities have suffered severe damage in both disasters and such damage is of sufficient severity to justify ER assistance. Sufficient documentation establishing the existence of separate disasters should assure compliance with the $100 million per State cap per disaster.
- Flow Chart
Office of Program Administration