Disaster Cleanup and Rebuilding Work: How to Get on the List

Sign up with SAM today to be eligible for FEMA-funded work now or the next time a natural disaster strikes.


After a devastating hurricane like Harvey or Irma, the task of rebuilding is massive. The current shortage of skilled labor compounds the problem. In Houston, where construction work was already backlogged due to a building boom, the shortage is predicted to impede efforts to get the city back on its feet.

General contractors and subs who want to assist with rebuilding after a natural disaster —now or in the future — should get on FEMA’s radar by registering with the System for Award Management (SAM).

Why register with SAM

Once an event is declared a disaster, the FEMA Public Assistance Grant Program kicks in. It provides resources to the contractors doing repair, replacement or restoration work on projects eligible for funding assistance. That work can be lucrative. Following the Houston floods of 2016, FEMA awarded more than $43.8 million in assistance. Immediately after Super Storm Sandy in 2012, $2 billion in assistance grants was issued. Early estimates are putting the cost of damage created by Hurricane Harvey at approximately $160 billion — the combined cost of Katrina and Sandy — so it’s safe to expect the funding for repairs will be significant.

To find contractors, FEMA first turns to its Industry Liaison Program to qualify any local firms to serve as prime or subcontractors. When there aren’t enough local contractors to complete the work — the likely case in Texas — FEMA turns to the Army Corps of Engineers and the General Services Administration (GSA) for additional assistance.

All these organizations begin the search for supporting contractors by browsing through SAM. While FEMA does not keep a preferred vendor list, registering and creating a profile with SAM speeds along contract assignments in emergency situations.

What you’ll need to register with SAM  

Registering with SAM is free. Have the following items handy:

  1. Your business’ TIN/EIN number, as registered through the IRS.
  2. The NAICS code most relevant to your business.
  3. A D-U-N-S number for your business. You can get a free D-U-N-S Number in up to 30 business days, or you can opt to have your number expedited in five business days or less for $229.
  4. A brief capabilities statement that describes what services your company offers.
  5. Key words that reflect the nature of your business.
  6. A list of business references, with information that includes company names, a contact person, the time the work was performed and approximate cost of work.

Once you are registered with SAM, you can submit a voluntary vendor profile form to FEMA. FEMA cautions contractors to watch out for companies that may offer to complete these forms for a sizable fee.

FEMA encourages contractors to visit the Federal Business Opportunities Website at beta.sam.gov, where you can search for open procurement opportunities.

Additional opportunities

FEMA also advises contractors to pursue state-funded rebuilding work. You can reach out to specific state agencies via FEMA’s emergency management agencies contact page. For work in areas affected by Harvey and Irma, you can also reach out directly to:


Help is available

If you run into problems completing your application, consider reaching out to your local Procurement Technical Assistance Center. Experts at these centers can provide assistance with the registration process, much of it for free. These professionals are eager to help contractors find work helping home and business owners get back to normal.


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