Emergency Relief Program
Description: Congress authorized in Title 23, United States Code, Section 125, a special program from the Highway Trust Fund for the repair or reconstruction of Federal-aid highways and roads on Federal lands which have suffered serious damage as a result of (1) natural disasters or (2) catastrophic failures from an external cause. This program, commonly referred to as the emergency relief or ER program, supplements the commitment of resources by States, their political subdivisions, or other Federal agencies to help pay for unusually heavy expenses resulting from extraordinary conditions.
The applicability of the ER program to a natural disaster is based on the extent and intensity of the disaster. Damage to highways must be severe, occur over a wide area, and result in unusually high expenses to the highway agency. Applicability of ER to a catastrophic failure due to an external cause is based on the criteria that the failure was not the result of an inherent flaw in the facility but was sudden, caused a disastrous impact on transportation services, and resulted in unusually high expenses to the highway agency.
Funds Available: $100 million is authorized annually for the ER Program under 23 U.S.C. 125. Congress has periodically provided additional funds for the ER program through supplemental appropriations. MAP-21 eliminated the $100 million per State event cap. The total ER obligations for U.S. Territories (American Samoa, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and Virgin Islands) is limited to $20 million in any fiscal year.
Federal Share: Approved ER funds are available at the pro-rata share that would normally apply to the Federal-aid facility damaged. For Interstate highways, the Federal share is 90 percent. For all other highways, the Federal share is 80 percent. The Federal share for permanent ER repairs may amount to 90 percent if the combined eligible ER expenses incurred by the State in a Federal fiscal year exceeds the annual apportionment of the State under 23 U.S.C. section 104 for the fiscal year in which the disasters or failures occurred.
Emergency repair work to restore essential travel, minimize the extent of damage, or protect the remaining facilities, accomplished in the first 180 days after the disaster occurs, may be reimbursed at 100 percent Federal share. The 180 day time period for 100 percent eligibility of emergency repairs may be extended if a State cannot access a site to evaluate damages and the cost of repair.
How to Apply: It is the responsibility of individual States to request ER funds for assistance in the cost of necessary repair of Federal-aid highways damaged by natural disasters or catastrophic failures. A notice of intent to request ER funds filed by the State Department of Transportation with the FHWA Division Office located in the State will initiate the ER application process. States are required to submit an application for ER funding to FHWA within two calendar years of the date of the disaster. The application must include a comprehensive list of all eligible project sites and repair costs.
MAP-21 Changes: Additional information on MAP-21 changes to the ER program are addressed in a Question and Answer format at https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/map21/qandas/qaer.cfm.
Emergency Relief Guidance and Additional Information
Policy and Guidance
- FHWA Order 5182.1 Emergency Relief Program Responsibilities (02/22/2016)
- Expedited Emergency Relief (ER) Quick Release Allocation Process (10/02/2013)
- Emergency Relief Requirement in the Fiscal Management Information System (FMIS) (08/22/2013)
- Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 OMB Waiver (07/12/2013)
- Eligibility of Activities To Adapt To Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events Under the Federal-Aid and Federal Lands Highway Program (09/24/2012)
- Emergency Relief - Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012 (PL112-55) (04/09/2012)
- Emergency Relief (ER) Program Eligibility of Work Performed by the National Guard (04/05/2012)
- Management of Emergency Relief Funds (01/23/2012)
- A Guide to the Federal-aid Highway Emergency Relief Program (.pdf) This document provides an overview of the emergency relief program in layman's language.
- FAQ: Emergency Relief Program and Resilience (January, 2017)
- FAST Act Emergency Relief Program Question and Answers (04/06/2016)
- FAST Act Fact Sheet: Emergency Relief Program (ER) (February, 2016)
- MAP-21 Questions & Answers: Emergency Relief (08/8/2013)
- Emergency Relief Manual (.pdf) (5/31/2013) This electronic version of the ER manual is an update of the November 2009 version. This version addresses MAP-21 changes and includes an increased focus on the concept of infrastructure resilience. The ER manual provides guidance to assist States in applying for ER funds and making damage assessments, detailed inspections, and eligibility determinations.
- Guide to Federal-aid Programs and Projects: Emergency Relief Program (.pdf) (03/05/2013)
- Emergency Relief (ER) Program Debris Removal Policy (02/16/2012)
- Emergency Relief Program Information (03/25/2010)