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Applying for FEMA Public Assistance

After a Presidential Disaster Declaration, the usual procedure is for FEMA and SBA to set up Field Offices in the affected area(s). Both agencies issue press releases and widely disseminate them about how to contact their Field Offices. If you have difficulty in locating a FEMA Field Office, contact your state emergency management agency.

1. When should we apply for FEMA Public Assistance?

After a disaster has been declared, your state emergency management agency will schedule Applicant Briefings in areas affected by the disaster. Notices will appear in local newspapers, on local radio stations, and possibly on the website of your state emergency management agency. At Applicant Briefings, state officials will explain the process with FEMA Public Assistance representatives, and you will fill out and submit a Request for Public Assistance (RPA) application form (see details below).

Briefings take place anywhere from one to four weeks after a disaster has been declared. If you undertake emergency work (Category B) actions (such as having debris removed from your site or stabilizing your building or collection) before a briefing, be sure to thoroughly document your expenses and retain receipts.

If you are a private nonprofit (PNP) institution:

If you are part of a state, local, or tribal government:

2. What forms do we need to complete?

All applicants (private nonprofit and governmental) must file a Request for Public Assistance (RPA), form 90-49. This form does not require that you describe specific damages—you may file it even if you haven't been able to perform a damage assessment. Download it at or contact your FEMA Joint Field Office.

Private nonprofit applicants must also file a FEMA Private Non-Profit (PNP) Facility Questionnaire, form 90-121. You can download this form here. You must include the following with this form:

Submit these forms at the Applicant Briefing (or as instructed by your FEMA project officer). Deadlines for applying/filing for assistance will be publicized and are usually 30 days after the disaster declaration.

3. Where can we find help?

For FEMA Public Assistance policy guidance, contact your Joint Field Office or project officer.

4. What happens then?

See What to Expect after You Have Filed with FEMA.


For more information about applying for disaster aid from FEMA and the Small Business Administration, click on Disaster Aid for Cultural Institutions below.

Disaster Aid for Cultural Institutions | Applying for SBA Assistance | Applying for FEMA Assistance | How to Contact FEMA and SBA | What to Expect after You Have Filed with SBA | What to Expect after You Have Filed with FEMA | Resources