On Friday, September 8, 2017, Region 4 hosted a session to discuss critical issues facing schools, community colleges, municipalities and other local governments after Hurricane Harvey. Attendees had the opportunity to participate in FAQ sessions with Commissioner Mike Morath, TEA staff, school district attorneys, and representatives from the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Topics discussed included insurance and property claims, enrollment and services for displaced students, attendance waivers, impact on school accountability, employment and payroll challenges, post-disaster procurement, and services for special needs students.
Sherri Copeland from the Texas Division of Emergency Management led the FAQ session on the Public Assistance (PA) Grant program. Through this program, FEMA provides supplemental Federal disaster grant assistance for debris removal, emergency protective measures, the repair, replacement, or restoration of disaster-damaged, publicly owned facilities and the facilities of certain Private Non-Profit (PNP) organizations. Ms. Copeland highlighted some key items related to post-disaster procurement, which became a major topic of discussion in the FAQ sessions.
- Local, state, and federal rules and requirements MUST be followed
- Local governments CANNOT waive federal procurement rules
- Purchasing cooperatives must follow local, state, and federal procurement requirements
- 2 CFR 200.318
Therefore, according to the current rules in place as of September 8, 2017, FEMA expects entities to competitively procure purchases in a manner compliant with 2 CFR 200.318. Although statutes contain an emergency exception, the emergency period is over when the immediate danger is mitigated (building is dry, debris removed, mold remediated, and power restored). The inability to take the grace period and waive the federal procurement requirements is a major cause for concern and FEMA representatives stated that their Procurement Disaster Assistance Team (PDAT) is investigating. They are currently in the process of obtaining contracts from purchasing cooperatives to determine compliance with the federal procurement requirements.
Here are some major takeaways for entities expecting to receive funding from the PA Grant program:
- You should have a complete inventory list of everything that you are requesting for reimbursement. Take a picture of every damaged item.
- Document where you spend your insurance proceeds.
- If the entity does not consider a competitive purchasing method reasonable given the circumstances, document as much as you can. If FEMA ultimately does not allow entities to waive the federal procurement rules, you will want to keep as much support as to why items and services were not competitively procured. This means keeping proof of quotes and other documents comparing prices from different sources.
- Stay away from the cost plus percentage contract method.
- Overtime will be reimbursed to the extent of the policy that was in place pre-disaster.
- Keep project worksheets (PWs) by category.
- FEMA has implemented a new PA program with online portals that should help relieve some of the communication issues in the past.
- After the initial briefing by FEMA, each entity will submit a Request for Public Assistance form. This will be submitted to email@example.com.
If you are expecting to receive funding from the Public Assistance program (CFDA #97.036), you may also have this question:
When do I report FEMA reimbursed expenditures on the Schedule of Expenditures of Federal Awards?
According to the 2017 Compliance Supplement issued by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), “non-federal entities must record expenditures on the SEFA when: (1) FEMA has approved the non-Federal entity’s PW, and (2) the non-Federal entity has incurred the eligible expenditures. Federal awards expended in years subsequent to the fiscal year in which the PW is approved are to be recorded on the non-Federal entity’s SEFA in those subsequent years.”
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