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FEMA to end funding for cloth face masks for schools

FEMA to end funding for cloth face masks for schools
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Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials said Tuesday the agency will end federal funding for cloth face masks in schools around the country.

Recordings of a call between FEMA representatives and state officials obtained by NPR indicated that the new plan will face criticism from officials around the country who questioned on the call why the agency would only fund masks if they were deemed necessary to stop a "direct emergency."

"Supporting schools and other functions — courthouses and other related functions – are not a direct emergency protective measures and therefore they're not eligible for [federal funding]," said Keith Turi, a FEMA official, according to NPR.

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"There are costs that being incurred and required based on COVID, but they are all not necessarily emergency protective measures, and they're not necessarily all FEMA-eligible," he added in a response to one state official who questioned the policy.

FEMA's stance appears to be that masks are necessary to the basic operation of schools in the fall and should not therefore fall under the category of emergency equipment. A request for further comment from The Hill was not immediately returned.

The announcement comes as school districts around the country are returning for fall semester, with many still facing tough decisions over whether in-person learning will return and in what form it will take amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than six million Americans since its beginning earlier this year.

FEMA officials reportedly noted on the call that masks will still be funded by the federal government in some other settings.

The agency said in late July that it was still struggling to adequately provide personal protective equipment (PPE) including masks to front line healthcare workers.