Traditionally and most commonly, local municipalities remove debris following a hurricane and FEMA reimburses the local municipality for their expenses. FEMA usually requires the applicant (local municipality) to obtain written approval prior to starting work in order to qualify for reimbursement. Further, FEMA does not typically approve reimbursement for the local municipality to remove debris from private property (namely community associations).
However, FEMA recognizes the magnitude of Hurricane Harvey's destruction in Texas and is simplifying the process. The simplified process moves the approval determination from prior to work commencing to after work has been completed.
Applicants (local municipality) must provide written request through the State to FEMA identifying the areas where it will be conducting private property debris removal. Once submitted, the Applicant does not need to wait for FEMA approval to start work. However, FEMA approval is required to receive reimbursement and FEMA can only approve it if the Applicant documents how the removal is in the public interest.
The Applicant (local municipality) must provide the following information prior to receiving reimbursement:
The Applicant (local municipality) must provide confirmation that it has 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.
This simplified process gives no assurance of reimbursement. However, it is likely that county governments have emergency powers permitting them to respond to disaster or emergency conditions on private land that threaten public safety. If the county or relevant unit of local government invokes those authorities, obtains the legal release forms from homeowners, and identifies the private roads from which it intends to collect debris, it is expected the county or city will be reimbursed by FEMA.
Note: If a community association removes the debris, it is highly unlikely that FEMA will reimburse the association. The community association must work with the local municipality for removal. For additional guidance on FEMA Debris Removal click here.