Emergency Relief Manual
Chapter IV - Preliminary Steps
- Letter of Intent
The State files a "letter of intent" with the FHWA Division Office notifying of its intention to request ER funds. This is usually done as soon as it is evident that there is eligible damage, either during or immediately after the occurrence of the disaster. Filing a letter of intent does not commit the State to any future course of action. The letter of intent is simply a notice that a State plans to seek ER funds and does not need to specify the amount or other details. An example of a typical letter of intent is contained in Appendix B. An electronic copy of the letter of intent should be sent to the Office of Program Administration with a copy to the ER Program Manager.
- Acknowledgment Letter
The FHWA Division Office acknowledges in writing the State's letter of intent. An example of a typical Division Administrator's reply to the State's letter of intent is contained in Appendix C. The acknowledgment letter to the State should address the following items: acknowledgment of receipt, effective date, emergency operations, preliminary engineering, use of force account, waiver of competitive bidding, guidance for permanent work, time frame and items needed for Damage Survey Summary Report, time limit for programming, payment contingent on approval by the Division Administrator, and record keeping requirements.
The Division Administrator's acknowledgment of the applicant's letter of intent will assure the State that temporary operations, emergency repairs, and preliminary engineering may proceed without prior authorization by the FHWA. However, the eligibility of such work for ER funds will be contingent upon a favorable finding by the Division Administrator on the eligibility of the disaster and subsequent approval/authorization of the work by the FHWA. An electronic copy of the acknowledgement letter should be sent to the Office of Program Administration with a copy to the ER Program Manager.
- Governor's Proclamation
This is a formal proclamation by the Governor of the existence of an emergency. An example of a Governor's proclamation is contained in Appendix D. Only those areas of the State that are included in the Governor's proclamation will be eligible for ER funding.
- Basic Criteria
When serious damage has occurred or is being caused to Federal-aid highways, the Governor of the State shall issue an official proclamation unless the Governor has requested a major disaster declaration by the President under the Disaster Relief Act (P.L. 93-288). The proclamation should be issued by the Governor during or shortly after the occurrence and should state the gravity of the situation and specify the area affected. In the case of a catastrophic failure, it must be established that a catastrophic failure has occurred, (e.g., a sudden failure of a major element or segment of the highway system that causes a disastrous impact on transportation services) and that the cause was external to the facility.
- Timing of the Proclamation
Although the Governor's proclamation may be issued during or with reasonable promptness following the event, there is no need from FHWA's standpoint for the proclamation to be issued until a realistic determination has been made as to the area affected. It is desirable to delay preparation of the Governor's proclamation to permit evaluation of the magnitude and extent of the natural disaster, or to evaluate the magnitude of the catastrophic failure, by engineers from the State and FHWA. This procedure should facilitate consistency between the list of counties in the proclamation and those covered by the Damage Survey Summary Report. A copy of the Governor's proclamation shall be obtained for the Division Office file.
- Relationship to President's Declaration
The proclamation by the Governor as required in Title 23 is an entirely separate official action from the declaration issued by the President of the United States. The President's declaration proceeds from the disaster relief authority of P.L. 93-288 and is in response to a request from the Governor. The Governor's request for a determination by the President may be submitted as part of the State's application for ER funds in lieu of a State proclamation. A copy of the Governor's request shall be obtained for the Division Office file.
- Concurrence by the Division Administrator
The FHWA's concurrence in the disaster eligibility is either based on the emergency proclamation by the Governor, or, when the Governor has requested a major disaster declaration by the President and the declaration has not been made, on a review of the State's submission required for the ER application as described in Chapter III. The Division Administrator's concurrence will indicate his/her finding that extraordinary natural disaster conditions did exist, or that a catastrophic failure occurred, and that the disaster is eligible for ER funding assistance under 23 U.S.C. 125.
When the President has issued a major disaster declaration, the Division Administrator need not concur that a disaster occurred, but must nevertheless make a finding, based on a review of the State's submission required for the ER application in Chapter III, that substantial damage has occurred to the Federal-aid highways over a wide area or that the criteria for a catastrophic failure were met and that the damage is eligible under 23 U.S.C. 125.
Office of Program Administration