Seeking FEMA Assistance to the COVID-19 Pandemic

March 20, 2020
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Consistent with the President’s National Emergency Declaration for the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on March 13, 2020, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is urging local officials to take appropriate actions necessary to protect public health and safety pursuant to public health guidance, conditions and capabilities.

Under emergency declaration, FEMA is authorized to reimburse local governments for costs associated with “emergency protective measures” in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These emergency protective measures are defined in Category B of the Public Assistance Program of the Stafford Act. A summary of eligibility expenses follows:

FEMA Public Assistance Program

In accordance with section 502 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. 5121-5207 (the “Stafford Act”), eligible emergency protective measures taken to respond to the COVID-19 emergency at the direction or guidance of public health officials may be reimbursed under Category B of FEMA’s Public Assistance program. FEMA will not duplicate assistance provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), or other federal agencies.

State, territorial, tribal, and local government entities and certain private non-profit organizations are eligible to apply for Public Assistance. FEMA assistance will be provided at a 75 percent federal cost share. This assistance will require execution of a FEMA-State/Tribal/Territory Agreement, as appropriate, and execution of an applicable emergency plan. Local governments and other eligible PA applicants will apply through their respective state, tribal or territorial jurisdictions.

What should local governments do?

  1. Immediately contact your State designated Public Assistance (PA) Representative. If you don’t know who your State PA Representative is, you can contact:
  2. Work with the State PA Representative and the FEMA Public Assistance Coordinator (PAC) Crew Leader who will be assigned to you to determine if facilities, work, and costs meet Public Assistance Program eligibility criteria under the Presidential National Emergency Declaration.
  3. Work with the FEMA PAC to help guide you through the steps to obtaining funding.
  4. The FEMA PAC Crew Leader will advise you on eligibility issues, obtain specialists to assist with projects, and approve certain project costs.

Eligible Assistance

Under the COVID-19 Emergency Declaration described above, FEMA may provide assistance for emergency protective measures including, but not limited to, the following, if not funded by the HHS, CDC or other federal agency. While some activities listed may be eligible for funding through HHS or CDC, final reimbursement determinations will be coordinated by HHS and FEMA. FEMA will not duplicate any assistance provided by HHS or CDC:

  • Management, control and reduction of immediate threats to public health and safety:
    • Emergency Operation Center costs.
    • Training specific to the declared event.
    • Disinfection of eligible public facilities.
    • Technical assistance to state, tribal, territorial or local governments on emergency management and control of immediate threats to public health and safety
  • Emergency medical care:
    • Non‐deferrable medical treatment of infected persons in a shelter or temporary medical facility.
    • Related medical facility services and supplies.
    • Temporary medical facilities and/or enhanced medical/hospital capacity (for treatment when existing facilities are reasonably forecasted to become overloaded in the near term and cannot accommodate the patient load or to quarantine potentially infected persons).
    • Use of specialized medical equipment.
    • Medical waste disposal.
    • Emergency medical transport.
  • Medical sheltering (e.g. when existing facilities are reasonably forecasted to become overloaded in the near future and cannot accommodate needs)
    • All sheltering must be conducted in accordance with standards or guidance approved by HHS/CDC and must be implemented in a manner that incorporates social distancing measures.
    • Non‐congregate medical sheltering is subject to prior approval by FEMA and is limited to that which is reasonable and necessary to address the public health needs of the event, is pursuant to the direction of appropriate public health officials and does not extend beyond the duration of the Public Health Emergency.
  • Household pet sheltering and containment actions related to household pets in accordance with CDC guidelines.
  • Purchase and distribution of food, water, ice, medicine, and other consumable supplies, to include personal protective equipment and hazardous material suits.
  • Movement of supplies and persons.
  • Security and law enforcement.
  • Communications of general health and safety information to the public.
  • Search and rescue to locate and recover members of the population requiring assistance.
  • Reimbursement for state, tribe, territory and/or local government force account overtime costs.

Further information about eligible emergency protective measures can be found in the Public Assistance Program and Policy Guide, FP 104-009-2 (April 2018).

Congress and the Administration may approve additional reimbursements for expenses of other essential protective measures by passing supplemental appropriations bills or administrative actions.

State Emergency Operations Center

According to FEMA, all State’s Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) are activated. State, territorial, tribal, and local government entities and certain private non-profit organizations are eligible to apply for Public Assistance under the emergency declaration. This assistance will require execution of a FEMA-State/Tribal/Territory Agreement, as appropriate, and execution of an applicable emergency plan. States, tribal and territorial governments do not need to request separate emergency declarations to receive FEMA assistance under this nationwide declaration. For states, FEMA Regional Administrators will coordinate with Governors to execute a FEMA-State Agreement in support of COVID-19 response activities.

Local governments and other eligible public assistance applicants will need to apply through their respective state, tribal or territorial jurisdictions. Local officials should reach out to their state EOCs to provide an update on their needs and both current and anticipated activities.

You can find additional information about working with your state led public assistance program here.

FEMA recommends that local governments follow the guidelines for “Procurement Under Grants Conducted Under Exigent” or “Emergency Circumstances.”

About the Author: Yucel (“u-jel”) Ors is the program director of public safety and crime prevention at the National League of Cities. Follow Yucel on Twitter at @nlcpscp.