Category A: Eligibility Overview

Category A: Eligibility Overview (1 of 3)

Within Emergency Work are two Categories of Work: Category A and Category B. This subsection of Emergency Work discusses Category A: Debris Removal. Recall that Category A work pertains to debris removal. Debris eligibility can be complicated and incidents with extensive debris operations will often require FEMA to create a Debris Task Force with specialists to address the issues.

For more information on debris management and operations, please refer to the course: IS-632 Introduction to Debris Operations.

Common types of debris include, but is not limited to:

  • Vegetative debris
  • Construction and demolition debris
  • Sand
  • Mud
  • Silt
  • Gravel
  • Rocks
  • Boulders
  • Vehicle and vessel wreckage
  • Hazardous household waste

Category A: Eligibility Overview (2 of 3)

Category A debris removal activities are generally eligible when the work:

  • Eliminates immediate threats to lives, public health, and safety
  • Eliminates immediate threats of significant damage to improved public or private property
  • Ensures economic recovery of the affected community to the benefit of the community at large
  • Mitigates risk to life and property

For a private nonprofit, eligible debris removal is limited to that associated with an eligible facility, including debris on the property of the eligible facility.

Generally, debris removal from the following is not eligible:

  • Federally maintained navigable channels and waterways
  • Flood control works under the authority of the Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Agricultural land
  • Natural, unimproved land, such as heavily wooded areas and unused areas
  • When debris is placed on the public rights-of-way from commercial properties
  • When debris materials are related to the construction, repair, or renovation of either residential or commercial structures

Category A: Eligibility Overview (3 of 3)

Each type of debris has its own requirements. Because of this, this subsection of Emergency Work will discuss the following common types of debris further:

  • Hazardous limbs, trees and stumps
  • Hazardous Materials
  • Waterways
  • Private owned vehicle and vessels
  • Private property

After the discussion on common types of debris and their requirements, this module then dives into general considerations for all Category A work (i.e., disposal, costs, flood, environmental and historic preservation, and alternative procedures.

A large truck and a bulldozer clearing debris.

Category A: Hazardous Materials (1 of 3)

Another common type of debris is hazardous materials. The next two screens discuss eligibility considerations when dealing with the removal of this type of debris. Hazardous materials have properties that make it potentially harmful to human health or the environment.

Examples of types of hazardous material debris are:

  • Household hazardous waste are hazardous products and materials that are used and disposed of by residential rather than commercial or industrial consumers. Examples include:
  • Some paints, stains, varnishes, solvents, pesticides, and other products or materials containing volatile chemicals that catch fire, react, or explode under certain circumstances, or that are corrosive or toxic
  • Electronic waste (e-waste) refers to electronics that contain hazardous materials such as cathode ray tubes. Examples include:
  • Computer monitors and televisions
  • White goods are defined as discarded household appliances. Many white goods contain ozone-depleting refrigerants, mercury, or compressor oils. The Clean Air Act prohibits the release of refrigerants into the atmosphere and requires that certified technicians extract refrigerants from white goods before they are disposed of or recycled. Examples include:
  • Refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, heat pumps, ovens, ranges, washing machines, clothes dryers, and water heaters

For more information, please refer to Public Assistance Debris Management Guide or the online course: Introduction to Debris Operations course.

Category A: Hazardous Materials (2 of 3)

Public Assistance grant funding may be available for measures that address widespread hazardous materials contamination. Removal and disposal of pollutants and hazardous substances are generally eligible. Examples of potentially eligible activities include:

  • Separation of hazardous materials from other debris
  • Specialized procedures for handling and disposing of hazardous materials
  • Control or stabilization of the hazardous material
  • Pumping and treating water contaminated with the hazardous material
  • Clean-up and disposal of the hazardous material
  • Testing for contaminants in water, air, or soil (to ensure the immediate threat is eliminated)
  • Testing for contaminants for long-term cleanup actions is generally not eligible
Hazardous materials.

Category A: Hazardous Materials (3 of 3)

The Applicant must comply with Federal, State, Territorial, Tribal, and Local government environmental requirements for handling hazardous materials. Before handling or disposing of hazardous materials, the Applicant should contact the appropriate Federal, State, Territorial, or Tribal agency and obtain required permits.

Additionally, appropriate certified hazardous waste specialists should handle, capture, recycle, reuse, or dispose of hazardous materials. When providing Public Assistance funding for work involving the handling of hazardous materials, FEMA must ensure compliance with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

Category A: Waterways (1 of 5)

The next category of debris and eligibility considerations that will be discussed over the next five screens are debris located in waterways.

The Applicant should be aware of the Ports and Waterways Safety Act (33 U.S.C. 1221). This Act states that the U.S. Coast Guard is responsible for keeping waterways safe and open. While there is no specific language stating that the U.S. Coast Guard is responsible for debris removal from waterways, the U.S. Coast Guard has been tasked to assist in waterway and marine transportation system recovery. Public Assistance and U.S. Coast Guard have the specific authority to remove hazardous materials. Public Assistance reimburses for the removing of such material from inland water zones and U.S. Coast Guard is responsible for coastal water zones.

Debris removal from waterways that is necessary to eliminate the immediate threat to life, public health and safety, or improved property may be eligible to receive Public Assistance funding. Removal of debris in a waterway that does not meet this criterion is not eligible, even if the debris is deposited by the incident.

For FEMA to determine if debris removal from waterways is eligible, the Applicant must provide documentation that:

  • Establishes legal responsibility
  • Includes the basis of the immediate threat determination
  • Identifies locations, types, and quantities of debris
  • Demonstrates the debris claimed was deposited by the incident and was not pre-existing

Category A: Waterways (2 of 5)

Navigable Waterways

If the Applicant has legal responsibility for maintenance of a navigable waterway, removal and disposal of debris that obstructs the passage of vessels is eligible to a maximum depth of 2 feet below the low-tide draft of the largest vessel that utilized the waterway prior to the incident. Any debris below this zone is not eligible unless it is necessary in order to remove debris extending upward into an eligible zone.

Again, debris removal from federally maintained navigable waterways is not eligible the. U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have specific authorities for removal of hazardous substances, vessels, and other obstructions from federally maintained navigable waterways.

Floats being utilized to contain debris.

Category A: Waterways (3 of 5)

Non-navigable Waterways

Debris deposited by the incident may obstruct a natural waterway (a waterway not improved or maintained) or a constructed channel, including flood control works. Removal of the debris from the channel may be eligible if the debris poses an immediate threat, such as when the debris:

  • Obstructs, or could obstruct, intake structures
  • Could cause damage to structures, such as bridges and culverts
  • Is causing, or could cause, flooding to improved public or private property during the occurrence of a 5-year flood

Applicants should be aware of the Natural Resources Conservation Service and how it may impact their grant:

  • Removal of the obstruction may be eligible in streams where debris removal would also be eligible under the Natural Resources Conservation Service Emergency Watershed Protection Program unless Natural Resources Conservation Service provides assistance for the debris removal.
  • Debris removal from flood control works that are under the specific authority of Natural Resources Conservation Service is not eligible for Public Assistance funding, even if Natural Resources Conservation Service does not have sufficient funding or does not provide assistance.

Category A: Waterways (4 of 5)

Non-navigable Waterways

Additionally, the Applicant should be aware of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Rehabilitation and Inspection Program and how it may impact their grant:

  • Debris removal or flood control works may be eligible for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Rehabilitation and Inspection Program
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers does not reimburse Applicants for debris removal but conducts this activity directly when necessary
FEMA Debris Deputy Task Force Leader speaks with US Corps of Engineers Debris Subject Matter Expert and debris contractors.

Category A: Waterways (5 of 5)

Identifying Debris Impact Locations and Documentation

The Applicant is responsible for identifying debris deposited by the incident that poses an immediate threat. The Applicant should work with the Program Delivery Manager to determine what documentation is required to demonstrate debris impact locations.

  • Random surveys to look for debris, including surveys performed using side scan sonar, are not eligible.
  • If the Applicant identifies an area of debris impacts and demonstrates the need for a survey to identify specific immediate threat, FEMA may provide Public Assistance funding for the survey in that location, including the use of side scan sonar.

Category A: Privately Owned Vehicles and Vessels

The next common type of debris found after a disaster are privately owned vehicles and vessels. Removal of privately owned vehicles and vessels may be eligible if all of the following conditions are met:

  1. The vehicle or vessel blocks access to a public-use area.
  2. The vehicle or vessel is abandoned and the Applicant is unable to identify the owner.
  3. The Applicant follows applicable State, Territorial, Tribal, and Local government ordinances or laws for private vehicle or vessel removal.
  4. The Applicant verifies the chain of custody of the vehicle or vessel.

A limited timeframe for vehicle and vessel storage may be eligible if it is necessary to remove the item prior to being able to identify the owner. If the owner is subsequently identified, the Applicant must return to FEMA the Federal share of any funds it recovers for storage costs.

A destroyed truck wrapped around a tree.

Category A: Debris Removal from Private Property (1 of 7)

If debris on private property is so widespread that it threatens public health and safety or the economic recovery of the community, FEMA may provide Public Assistance funding for debris removal from private property. This debris removal must be in the public interest, not merely benefiting an individual or a limited group of individuals within the community.

In limited circumstances, based on the severity of the impact of an incident, FEMA may determine that debris removal from private property is potentially eligible under the Public Assistance Program. In making its determination, FEMA evaluates whether the impacts of debris on private property affect the general public in that community and whether the Applicant has legal authority to perform the work.

In such cases, FEMA works with the State, Territorial, Tribal, and Local governments to designate specific areas where debris removal from private property, including private waterways, is eligible.

The following slides outline various requirements to determine if the debris on private property may be eligible for funding.

Category A: Debris Removal from Private Property (2 of 7)

Written Request

Prior to commencing work on private property, the Applicant must submit a written request and receive approval from FEMA. The written request must include:

  • A public interest determination
  • Documentation supporting the Applicant's legal authority to remove the debris
  • Indemnification

The Applicant needs to identify the specific properties or areas of properties for which it is requesting approval.

Category A: Debris Removal from Private Property (3 of 7)

Public Interest Determination

The Applicant must provide the basis for the determination that removing the debris from the private property requested is in the public interest. The determination must be made by the State, Territorial, Tribal, county, or municipal government's public health authority or other public entity that has legal authority to make a determination that disaster-generated debris on private property in the designated area constitutes an immediate threat to life, public health, or safety, or to the economic recovery of the community at large.

Additionally, the Applicant must submit its established, specific legal requirements for declaring the existence of a threat to public health and safety.

Category A: Debris Removal from Private Property (4 of 7)

Legal Authority and Responsibility

The Applicant not only must provide documentation to confirm its legal authority and responsibility to enter private property and remove disaster related debris, they must also comply with all the conditions of the Public Assistance grant requirements.

This includes:

  • Citation of the law, ordinance, code, or emergency powers for which it is exercising its legal authority to remove debris from private property
  • The authority cited must be applicable to the condition representing the immediate threat and not merely the Applicant's uniform level of services
  • Typically, solid waste disposal ordinances are part of an Applicant's uniform level of services and not a justification for entering private property to remove disaster-related debris
  • Confirmation that a legally authorized official of the Applicant has ordered the exercise of public emergency powers or other appropriate authority to enter onto private property in the designated area to remove debris to address immediate threats to life, public health, and safety
FEMA Corps member surveys private property.

Category A: Debris Removal from Private Property (5 of 7)

Indemnification and FEMA Approval

The Applicant must indemnify the Federal Government and its employees, agents, and contractors from any claims arising from the removal of debris from private property.

FEMA will provide a written response to the request specifying any properties or area of properties for which debris removal is approved.

The Applicant must provide confirmation that it satisfied all legal processes and obtained permission requirements from the property owners (rights-of-entry) and agreements to indemnify and hold harmless the Federal Government before FEMA will provide PA funding for debris removal from private property.

Category A: Debris Removal from Private Property (6 of 7)

Duplication of Benefits

When applying for Public Assistance grant funding, the Applicant must be aware of duplication of benefits, especially when dealing with private property.

The Applicant should work with private property owners to pursue and recover insurance proceeds and credit FEMA the Federal share of any insurance proceeds received. In some circumstances, FEMA may provide Individual Assistance to individuals for debris removal; consequently, FEMA Public Assistance staff will coordinate closely with Individual Assistance staff to ensure FEMA does not fund the same work under both programs.

Category A: Debris Removal from Private Property (7 of 7)

Certain types of private properties have specific requirements for debris removal beyond the normal discussion of debris removal from, private property. Such examples are debris removal from gated communities and from commercial property.

Debris Removal from Gated Communities:

Debris removal from private residential property within a gated community is not eligible. However, if the debris is placed on a private road within the gated community, debris removal from the road may be eligible in accordance with the eligibility and request criteria listed in Chapter 2.VI.A.6 (a).

Debris Removal from Commercial Property:

Removal of debris from commercial properties, such as industrial parks, golf courses, cemeteries, apartments, condominiums, and trailer parks, is generally ineligible because commercial enterprises are expected to retain insurance that covers debris removal. In very limited, extraordinary circumstances, FEMA may provide an exception. In such cases, the Applicant must meet the requirements of Chapter 2.VI.A.6 (a) and (b).

Debris and damage to local cemetery.

Category A: Disposal of Debris (1 of 3)

FEMA provides Public Assistance funding for various costs related to disposing of debris. The Applicant should dispose of debris in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

Vegetative debris is bulky and can consume a significant volume of landfill space. To minimize the use of landfill space, FEMA encourages the Applicant to reduce the volume of vegetative debris before burying. Costs to reduce vegetative debris using methods such as mulching, grinding, or burning are eligible.

Certain types of construction and demolition debris are reusable or recyclable. The Applicant should conserve landfill space by separating materials for reuse or recycling.

A disposal truck lifts debris.

Category A: Disposal of Debris (2 of 3)

Temporary Staging Sites

Establishing and operating a temporary staging site necessary for the purpose of debris separation and reduction is eligible. The cost to lease property is eligible. Additionally, if the terms of the lease require that the Applicant restore the leased property back to its condition prior to the Applicant's use, the costs related to that restoration are also eligible as part of the Category A project.

Hand-Loaded Trucks and Trailers

FEMA has determined that, for vegetative debris, hand-loaded trucks and trailers achieve approximately half the compaction level of mechanically loaded trucks and trailers. Therefore, FEMA only provides Public Assistance funding for 50 percent of the vegetative debris in hand-loaded trucks and trailers.

Similarly, trucks without solid tailgates cannot be compacted to full capacity. Therefore, FEMA will only fund a maximum of 85 percent of the debris in trucks without solid tailgates.

The Applicant must document the types and total quantity of debris that was hand-loaded and the types and total quantity of debris hauled in trucks without solid tailgates and provide this information to FEMA to ensure appropriate reductions are taken for this debris.

Category A: Disposal of Debris (3 of 3)

Tipping Fees

A tipping fee is the charge levied upon a given quantity of waste received at a waste processing facility. In the case of a landfill it is generally levied to offset the cost of opening, maintaining and eventually closing the site. Landfill tipping fees usually include fixed and variable costs, along with special taxes or fees assessed by the jurisdiction in which the landfill is located.

Eligible tipping fee costs are limited to the variable and fixed costs directly related to landfill operations, such as recycling tax. The components of tipping fees not directly related to landfill operations, such as special taxes or fees related to other government services or public infrastructure, are not eligible as part of the tipping fee. When providing Public Assistance funding for tipping fees, FEMA removes any ineligible components.

The Applicant may use a significant portion of the available capacity of a landfill to dispose of incident-related debris. Although FEMA provides Public Assistance funding for tipping fees, it cannot provide funding for the value of the loss of landfill capacity due to incident-related debris.

General Category A Considerations

As stated previously, this module provided an overview of common types of debris removal and their requirements.

The next few slides discuss the general considerations an Applicant should make for all Category A projects. This includes the following:

  • Monitoring debris removal operations
  • Special considerations
  • Environmental and historic preservation
  • Alternative Procedures Pilot Program for debris removal

Once completed, this module discusses Category B of Emergency Work.

Category A: Monitoring Debris Removal Operations (1 of 2)

The Applicant must provide debris types, quantities, reduction methods, and pickup and disposal locations for FEMA to determine the eligibility of debris removal operations.

FEMA requires the Applicant to monitor all contracted debris operations to document this information and ensure the contractor removes eligible debris. If the Applicant does not monitor these operations, Public Assistance funding for that work may be jeopardized.

Special arborist debris removal teams clear cut massive hardwoods with heavy machinery.

Category A: Monitoring Debris Removal Operations (2 of 2)

Force Account resources (including temporary hires), contractors, or a combination of these may be used by the Applicant for monitoring. It is not necessary or cost-effective to have Professional Engineers or other certified professionals perform debris monitoring duties.

The use of staff more qualified than necessary for the associated work is considered an unreasonable cost. If staff with professional qualifications are used to conduct debris monitoring, the reason must be documented.

FEMA provides training to the Applicant's force account debris monitors upon request. Eligible debris monitoring activities may include:

  • Field supervisory oversight
  • Monitoring contracted debris removal at both the loading and disposal sites
  • Compiling documentation, such as load tickets and monitor reports, to substantiate eligible debris
  • Training debris monitors on debris removal operations, monitoring responsibilities and documentation processes, and FEMA debris eligibility criteria

Category A: Special Considerations - Environmental and Historic Preservation

Although debris removal is generally statutorily excluded from National Environmental Policy Act review, FEMA must ensure compliance with other Federal laws, regulations, and executive orders prior to funding the work. The Applicant should contact applicable Federal, State, Territorial, and Tribal regulatory agencies to ensure compliance with requirements and permits for debris-related operations.

Accordingly, FEMA must ensure that the Applicant's debris removal operations avoid impacts to floodplains, wetlands, federally listed threatened and endangered species and their critical habitats, and historic properties.

The Applicant must stage debris at a safe distance from property boundaries, surface water, wetlands, structures, wells, and septic tanks with leach fields.

Upon completion of debris removal and disposal, site remediation may be necessary at staging sites and other impacted areas.

For more information on environmental and historic preservation, please refer to the course: IS-1016 Environmental and Historic Preservation Considerations and Compliance.

Category A: Alternative Procedures Pilot Program for Debris Removal

The Applicant may elect to participate in one or more of the following Alternative Procedures for debris removal:

  • Increased Federal cost share based on a sliding scale linked to the accelerated completion of debris removal
  • Reimbursement of straight-time for Force Account labor
  • Retention of income generated from recycling debris
  • A one-time 2 percent increased cost-share incentive for a FEMA-accepted debris management plan with pre-qualified debris removal contractors before the start of the incident period

The Applicant must notify FEMA of its intent to participate in the pilot program by signing and submitting the Public Assistance Alternative Procedures Pilot Program for Debris Removal Acknowledgement before obligation of its first debris removal project or within 60 days of its Recovery Scoping Meeting, whichever is sooner.

If the Applicant submits the acknowledgement and subsequently wishes to rescind its participation in one or more of the Alternative Procedures, it may do so provided it submits written notification prior to the obligation of its first debris removal project.

For more information on Alternative Procedures Pilot Program, please refer to the IS-1005 Public Assistance Alternative Procedures Pilot Program course

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