State Watch

States say FEMA may no longer pay for protective gear

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State and local governments officials say the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has indicated it might no longer provide reimbursements for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies needed to fight COVID-19.

FEMA reimburses state and local governments for 75 percent of the costs for PPE and disinfectants, but that arrangement may soon end, according to state and municipal leaders.

“This proposed change to PPE coverage continues a troubling pattern of shifting costs and responsibilities onto states and localities when they can least afford it,” the National Governors Association (NGA), National Conference of State Legislatures and other groups wrote in a letter Tuesday to FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor.

An NGA spokesperson told The Hill that regional administrators for FEMA indicated in conversations with state officials that a reimbursement change could be coming, but no formal documents have been issued.

FEMA did not immediately respond to request for comment. 

Under President Trump’s national emergency declaration for COVID-19, states and localities can request reimbursement from FEMA for goods and services needed to respond to outbreaks.

State and local officials argue they still need assistance from the federal government as they face unprecedented costs in trying to contain the pandemic, even as the number of daily cases declines.

The U.S. is averaging about 40,000 new COVID-19 cases a day — a 20 percent drop from the average two weeks earlier, but still an unsustainable position for the country to be in, experts warn.

“PPE is a fundamental need for all COVID-19 related operations and is the definition of an ‘emergency protective measure,’ ” the letter to Gaynor states.

“Shifting policy guidance in the middle of a pandemic is impractical, causes confusion, and disrupts operations in states and localities.”

The letter suggested the potential change might be because the Trump administration is now allowing states to tap into $44 billion in FEMA’s disaster relief fund to provide extra unemployment benefits to Americans out of work because of the coronavirus recession.

The NGA and other groups have argued Congress should provide new funding for expanded unemployment benefits instead of dipping into the disaster relief fund.

“We hope the decision to shift the cost of providing PPE to states and localities is not due to the recent strain on the Disaster Relief Fund by the Lost Wages Assistance program,” the letter reads.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump FEMA nga Pandemic Personal protective equipment PPE

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