Synthesis of Information Related to Highway Problems. Topic 44-01. FEMA and FHWA Emergency Relief Funds Reimbursements to DOTs

Departments of transportation (DOTs) are increasingly relying on Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Emergency Relief funds to recover from emergency events. For example, with climate change, the amount of rain falling during intense precipitation events has increased 20% over the last century, even before the notable increase in extreme events in the last decade. The expectation is that the frequency and magnitude of extreme events will continue to occur. To cope with these changes and other natural disasters, DOTs need to efficiently secure appropriate reimbursements. DOTs report that they have often learned the hard way how to prepare internally, to ease this process, and that it has been difficult to get expenses covered. On many occasions, the DOTs have failed to account for their legitimate expenses. DOTs and other responders often are not thinking about all the costs associated with an emergency, and so are not getting fully reimbursed. Items that are frequently overlooked, and thus not properly accounted for, include: withdrawing items from supplies on hand, multiple unaccounted-for organizational costs, and foregone staff hours. In addition to a lack of and/or focus on tracking eligible costs, there is the issue of document retention. As many agencies attempt to gather documentation, they have a tendency to take the quick and easy path of storing documents. Many times, this includes scanned image files and printed media without electronic back-up. During audits and validations, the ability to manipulate and segregate data is crucial. Having the proper system in place is vital to the success of state DOTs in receiving the maximum reimbursement due to them. The knowledge of how to work within this system of relief fund is a strategic asset for DOTs, but most of that knowledge is hard won, implicit, and is transmitted infrequently and anecdotally. This goal of this research effort is to improve DOTs and local public agencies (LPAs) access to information about knowledge and resources, through documentation of existing experiences, knowledge, learning, and practices used by DOTs to efficiently obtain appropriate reimbursements. This project will synthesize the range of things DOTs can do, and in some cases are doing, to ease their response effort, secure appropriate reimbursements, and simplify cost identification. Assigning specific project numbers and work codes prior to completing work is one such example. The report will include a literature review which includes: (1) Identification of federal funding sources that apply to emergency relief fund reimbursements for roads, bridges, trails, and other transportation infrastructure, including Emergency Relief for Federally Owned roads (ERFO); (2) A summary of FEMA and FHWA policies, regulations and statutes that guide emergency relief fund reimbursements to state DOTs and other modal agencies, including changes that will result with MAP-21; (3) Identification of relevant information sources, such as emergency relief manual and guidance documents; and (4) Identification of areas where there has been significant confusion, such as the definition of pre-disaster conditions. Effective practices will be identified through a screening survey to DOT members of the TRB Special Committee on Transportation Security and Emergency Management. Interviews with DOT staff involved with emergency relief fund reimbursements, including construction contractors, will provide detailed information about effective practices. The final report will be a document that will aid DOTs, LPAs, FEMA and FHWA in future work. It will include 6-10 case studies which highlight the following: (1) Effective practices and systems that are in place to obtain timely and appropriate fund reimbursements from FEMA and FHWA, including but not limited to cost estimate systems, expenditure documentation systems, method of payment for contracts, and DOT/LPA training programs; (2) A broad spectrum of emergency events, such as catastrophic failures, floods, earthquakes, ice storms, hurricanes, tropical storms, and fires; (3) Lessons learned from failures; and (4) What type of state or local reimbursement funds are used for non-federal share match, such as California's Office of Emergency Services (OES) funding.


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Funding: $40000.00
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 20-05, Topic

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590

    American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

    444 North Capitol Street, NW, Suite 225
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Synthesis

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC    20001
  • Project Managers:

    Zwahlen, Tanya

  • Performing Organizations:

    Nakanishi Research and Consulting, LLC

  • Principal Investigators:

    Nakanishi, Yuko

  • Start Date: 20121005
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • Source Data: RiP Project 37850

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01545061
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 20-05, Topic
  • Files: TRB, RiP
  • Created Date: Nov 25 2014 1:01AM