FEMA Small Grants

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Find out why you really don’t love small grants, but think you do, and avoid the pitfalls. FEMA small grants fall within a special set of rules. It permits a simplified effort with grant management best practices. A FEMA public assistance small grant seems very attractive but may cause problems long term. You decide as we examine the topic in detail. Walking Small trail on the FEMA Quest map is easier than the rough terrain, hazards, and effort of Large grants.

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Public Assistance Small Grants Defined

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FEMA Public Assistance Small Grants are defined within the Stafford Act and are intended to be a simple, easy way through the process. In 2020, they are capped at $130,000. The number varies. In 2011, the value was about $65,000. Writing a grant costs FEMA money. A few years ago, FEMA estimated the easiest grant to write cost a minimum of $5,000. The Small Grant starts and finishes with the grant application in the FEMA Grants Portal. You supply everything that is needed. You land at $130,000 or less. Your state sends you a check. You are told to keep your documentation available for a while.  You’re done. The grant close out process and grant application process were combined to a single effort by FEMA.

But! But, you can’t go back. A Large Grant, those over the threshold allow for the grant size and grant scope to have flexibility. You may request changes. It is intended to cover the costs of your project or mission – y’know within the normal rules for reimbursement.

Drawbacks to Small Projects

The application process for a small grant and large grant are the same. FEMA has been combining projects recently – that’s them doing their thing. FEMA will take your information from one or more applications and generate one or more grants.

Sometimes, FEMA combines several grant applications or projects into one large grant with a series of “site sheets” or sub-projects. This is clever. Separate projects and separate scopes and separate budgets, but within the confines of a Large Project. Hey, if something is off, go make an adjustment. Make a Request of the state to change the dates, add or subtract dollars, modify the scope.

Here’s why I don’t like small projects. You’re done. You got a grant for $100,000 for your activities. Then two months later, you see that you missed the fire department payroll and the police department payroll. And the electronic signs and the 500 cones you bought.

Those are all your costs now. You missed them.

Benfits of Small Grants

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The benefits of the small grant. So, what if you miss a dollar here or there? You’re done. Tracking these expenses and uploading documents costs money and time. While FEMA does provide funding for grant management, the trade-off may benefit you. Miss a dollar, gain hours. Yay for you.

It is like a Sunday stroll down Small Trail on the FEMA Quest Map. It’s practically paved!

Small Projects & Tempest-GEMS

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So what about Tempest-GEMS and small grants? Me, I’d skip them. But I have entered a few times. Sometimes by entering them in addition to the large projects, I see the whole picture better. It is personal preference. Yes, the law says that you must keep the documents for years. And Tempest-GEMS can do that reliably.

FEMA Public Assistance Small projects fall below a threshold which is $130,000 in April 2020. You do your close out when you do the application in the Grants Portal or with your paper submission.

If you missed money you don’t get to go back to the window and ask for more.

If the money you got is a few dollars more than the actual costs. You keep that.

And you don’t have to spend hours per week keeping up with the long-term grant management effort. That’s a win.

You weight the pluses and minuses. If your aggregated costs are about $100,000 you may not have much of a choice. If your costs are creeping up and past that point, know your options.

Please share this material with colleagues. Post about us and our efforts on your favorite social media platform. And don’t forget to grab the Guide to small projects to help you on your FEMA Quest.

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