Applying for Federal Disaster Assistance in Florida

Arts organizations and cultural institutions that have been impacted by Hurricane Irma may be eligible for Federal disaster assistance via:

  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Public Assistance (PA)
  • Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loans

If your institution is affiliated with a government agency, such as a state university or a county or municipality, you should communicate with that agency regarding your damage and any expenditures (overtime of personnel, purchases, etc.) to protect your facilities. The information below doesn’t necessarily apply to your institution because your expenditures will be included as part of your government agency – but only if it is aware of your damage.

In a Nutshell: File, File, File

  1. File a claim with your insurance company immediately. Follow all the deadlines set by the insurance company, and submit all documents and information requested within the deadlines set by the company.
  2. File for FEMA Public Assistance. Don’t dither about your eligibility; let FEMA determine your status. Be aware of the filing deadline. If you miss the deadline, which varies based on your county disaster declaration date, you will not have access to this federal disaster assistance.
  3. File for a Small Business Administration disaster loan as well. Complete and submit the application as soon as possible. Returning the application does not obligate you to accept an SBA loan, but it is a necessary step to being considered for other forms of federal disaster assistance, including FEMA Public Assistance.

FEMA Public Assistance

If you are private nonprofit organization unaffiliated with any government agency, apply for FEMA Public Assistance (PA) and an SBA disaster loan.

Only certain private nonprofit (PNP) organizations are eligible under FEMA’s Public Assistance Grant Program. To be an eligible applicant, the PNP must show that it has:

  • A current ruling letter from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service granting tax exemption under sections 501(c), (d), or (e) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, or
  • Documentation from the State substantiating it is a non-revenue producing, nonprofit entity organized or doing business under State law.

Additionally, for a facility to be eligible, the PNP must own or operate the facility and provide a service that is:

  • Critical in nature (e.g., education, utility, emergency, or medical); or
  • A non-critical facility that provides an essential government service AND is open to the public.

For more information on eligibility of PNPs, refer to the Public Assistance Program and Policy Guide at

Public Assistance reimburses eligible applicants for eligible work at eligible facilities at a reasonable cost. The cost share of eligible cost is 75% Federal and 25% Non-Federal. If your institution wishes to seek reimbursement through FEMA's Public Assistance Program, you can submit your Request for Public Assistance (RPA) online. Go to and click on “APPLY NOW” in the red Hurricane Irma Banner. See this guide to navigating

FEMA will want to see a settlement or denial letter from your insurance company to ensure there is no duplication of benefits. So be sure to file an insurance claim promptly. If your insurance company covers your losses, FEMA will not duplicate that coverage. If you still have unmet needs or damages that the insurance company does not cover, then FEMA may be able to provide you with assistance.

Applicant Briefing

The Applicant Briefing provides a high-level overview of the Public Assistance (PA) Program. The topics it normally covers include:  

  • Application procedures
  • Project funding
  • Hazard mitigation
  • Administrative requirements
  • Procurement requirements
  • Environmental and historic preservation (EHP) compliance requirements
  • General eligibility criteria
  • Documentation requirements
  • Recordkeeping

See the Applicant Briefing schedule; note that they end this week. These briefings will be conducted virtually; see these instructions for attending.

For questions about Public Assistance, please contact your County Emergency Manager. A list can be found at

Small Business Administration Disaster Loan Program

Non-Critical PNPs – most arts organizations and cultural institutions – must first apply to the Small Business Administration for disaster assistance. If denied by SBA or if your costs exceed what SBA covers, then FEMA may be able to provide you with assistance.

There are several types of loan programs available to private nonprofits. They include:

Types of Loans



Maximum Amount

Business Loans “Physical”

Businesses and private

Repair or replace real estate, equipment, furniture, etc.

$2 million

Economic Injury Loans

Small businesses & private

Economic injury disaster loans or working capital loans

$2 million


Businesses, private
nonprofits and homeowners.

Mitigate / prevent future loss to real property

20% of verified physical damage. Homeowners limited to $200,000.

  • Businesses and private nonprofit organizations of any size may borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace disaster damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory, and other business assets.
  • Applicants may be eligible for a loan amount increase up to 20 percent of their physical damages, as verified by the SBA for mitigation purposes.
  • Economic Injury Loans are also available for businesses that did not receive physical damage but were economically impacted due to the disaster.
  • Interest rates are as low as 2.5 percent for nonprofit organizations. Loan amounts and terms are set by the SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition.


 FEMA and the Smithsonian Institution co-sponsor the Heritage Emergency National Task Force, a partnership of 42 national service organizations and federal agencies created to protect cultural heritage from the damaging effects of natural disasters and other emergencies. 


Applicant Briefing Schedule FL.pdf93.99 KB
Details on Virtual Applicant Briefings for DR-4337 - Hurricane Irma.pdf270.08 KB
Oct. 1. 17-841 FL 15302 SBA Opens 6 BRCs in Florida.pdf272.01 KB
Submitting RPA Instructions - Hurricane Irma_9-22-17.pdf20.76 KB

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