Funding 101 for Communities

Courtesy of the US Forest Service.After a wildfire, one of the most important tasks in community response is identifying and applying for disaster assistance. This section describes key items to consider when evaluating funding sources and preparing to apply for assistance for your community.

  • Fund Immediate Threats: After wildfire, you need to immediately assess the threat that flash flooding poses. You may have limited time between when the fire is controlled enough to allow for mitigation work to begin and when the rains will come. Unfortunately, many of the sources of funding to help pay for mitigation projects: 1) do not pay for projects that have already been started or completed; and 2) provide funding on a time frame that takes weeks and months, rather than the hours and days when project implementation can make significant differences.

  • Your first task is to identify what funds are available in the community for immediate use, and to prioritize projects that will provide the most expedient protection. It is better to spend that money quickly and wisely and get some immediate protection, than to hold the funds to match future federal contracts and have more damage to contend with because preventative measures were not implemented in a timely manner. Be sure to handle these actions as separate projects that do not jeopardize your community’s opportunities to compete for federal funding for other projects.

  • Do not assume FEMA is all you need A Presidential Disaster Declaration  or a Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) declaration must be established in order for a community to be eligible for FEMA funding. Additional funding will likely be needed to match or supplement what FEMA provides. There are other resources that may be available to communities, however. See our section on Who Can Help.

  • Ask the right questions of community members. As mentioned above, a Declaration is needed for your community to qualify for FEMA and other types of assistance. Assistance often hinges on information such as the number of uninsured structures lost in a wildfire.The Post Fire Coordinator or others receiving calls from individuals in your community or meeting community members should collect their contact information and ask individuals if: (1) Their home or other structures were destroyed, (2) If their business suffered a loss or was destroyed, and (3) If so, whether or not their business is insured.

    • Document, document, document: It is important for communities to document damage. Take pictures of your community to document damage, particularly to infrastructure such as bridges, and provide ‘before’ images if they are available. Document all damage from multiple angles. Documentation is critical, from the application process through the life of a grant. For example, for most grants, documenting mitigation practices and results and saving receipts is mandatory.

    • Follow procurement guidelines and follow funding requirements: Procurement is the acquisition of goods, services or works from an outside external source. If you receive government funding, you must follow federal and state procurement guidelines. If you do not, your funding may be taken back. Contracts must be of reasonable cost, generally must be competitively bid, and must comply with federal, state, and local procurement standards. Contractors must be paid on time. If any of these requirements are not met, subsequent audit findings may adversely impact your final award payout and potential future funding, as will non-compliance of requisite cultural and environmental permitting. Proper documentation of the work completed and charge codes for personnel costs, equipment and materials will be essential for reimbursement. Ensure you know and comply with the requirements of each grant.

    • A note on permitting: Permitting can be complex. For information on permitting, contact your County’s permitting department, the New Mexico Environment Department, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.To link to a document on Frequently Asked Questions related to permits in emergency situations from the USACE, click here.

    • Leadership roles: Make sure local government leaders understand that their role extends beyond applying for assistance. As the community’s official representative, they also have the responsibility to track the progress of the applications and press for action when necessary. Financial assistance processes may take more time than anticipated. 

      • Planning for funding is important. As with ‘Mobilizing Your Community’, cities and towns that are proactive and develop post-wildfire mitigation plans before an incident occurs are better equipped to obtain financial assistance for wildfire response and recovery. If you are reading this guide before a wildfire occurs, think about how your community can plan financially for a post wildfire situation.

      • Get help: Putting together a grant application under a tight deadline after a disaster is difficult. Although it seems counter intuitive, you will be more effective if you take time up front to organize qualified staff and volunteers and partner with other stakeholders in the planning stage. Delegate tasks to those willing to assist who have the required skill sets and are committed to meeting the time constraints. Recovers.org helps identify volunteers and match them to needs after a disaster.

      • Matching funds: Does your community have a pool of matching funds available, or can the community mobilize heavy equipment or volunteers on a donated basis ("in-kind")? Most grants require either cash match, in-kind match, or both. If you do not have a pool of cash match, identify documentable in-kind donations of time, equipment and supplies, and seek out match funding when applying for grants.

      • Funding Opportunities: For a list of resources including funding opportunities, visit our 'Who Can Help' page.

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