New Jersey Members Fight Back Against FEMA Policy Change Halting Funding for Cloth Masks in Schools, PPE for Teachers, Disinfection for Public Facilities

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NEW JERSEY, September 14, 2020 | comments

Bipartisan Members of New Jersey’s Congressional Delegation are urging FEMA to reverse a new policy stipulating the agency will no longer provide emergency reimbursement for school systems and local governments for cloth masks used in schools, disinfection services for schools and other public facilities, thermometers, physical barriers, or PPE for teachers, medical staff, and other public workers.

“As we anticipate a potential second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the fall, we urge you to reverse this harmful policy,” the Members wrote in a letter to FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor. “As many students and teachers across our state and our country head back to school, FEMA’s policy will likely make it harder for state and local governments. This will hamstring efforts to slow the spread of the virus and prolong this pandemic.”

The interim policy, set to go into effect September 15, 2020, will limit reimbursement only to certain emergency protective measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a result, disinfection of schools and other public facilities, PPE for public employees including teachers, medical staff, and election workers, the purchase of thermometers and other physical barriers, and the distribution of cloth face masks will no longer qualify for emergency response reimbursement. FEMA will also now limit funding for the storage of a stockpile of PPE to up to sixty days from the date of purchase.

The letter to FEMA is signed by Reps. Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5), Donald Norcross (NJ-1), Andy Kim (NJ-3), Chris Smith (NJ-4), Frank Pallone (NJ-6), Tom Malinowski (NJ-7), Albio Sires (NJ-8), Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-9), Donald Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12).

A copy of the letter is available HERE, the text of which is provided below.

September 11, 2020

Peter T. Gaynor
Administrator
Federal Emergency Management Agency
500 C St. SW
Washington, DC 20024

Dear Administrator Gaynor:

We write to express our opposition to FEMA’s recently announced interim policy limiting reimbursement for certain emergency protective measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This policy, titled “COVID-19 Pandemic: Work Eligible for Public Assistance,” is restricted to emergency and major disaster declarations associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The policy, set to go into effect on September 15, 2020, stipulates that only work associated with the performance of emergency protective measures specifically is eligible for reimbursement in COVID-19-declared events.

Under this policy, several categories will no longer be considered under FEMA’s Category B designation which qualifies them for emergency response funding. As a result, disinfection of schools and other public facilities, personal protective equipment (PPE) for public employees including teachers, medical staff, and election workers, the purchase of thermometers and other physical barriers, and the distribution of cloth face masks will no longer qualify for emergency response reimbursement. Additionally, FEMA will now limit funding for the storage of a stockpile of PPE to up to sixty days from the date of purchase.

As many students and teachers across our state and our country head back to school, FEMA’s policy will likely make it harder for state and local governments. This will hamstring efforts to slow the spread of the virus and prolong this pandemic.

As we anticipate a potential second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the fall, we urge you to reverse this harmful policy. 

Sincerely,

MEMBERS OF CONGRESS

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