Amid Financial Challenges Faced by NH Schools, Shaheen Urges FEMA to Rescind Policy Change that Ends Reimbursements for PPE, COVID-19 Testing Supplies & DisinfectantSeptember 25, 2020
**FEMA’s recent decision to end federal reimbursements has left school districts across New Hampshire scrambling to cover costs for PPE & other supplies needed to protect students & faculty**
SHAHEEN: “The federal government should be doing everything it can to support these efforts rather than making it more difficult for schools to receive the resources they need to safely reopen.”
(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) sent a letter to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Peter Gaynor, urging the agency to reverse a new policy change that ends federal reimbursements for purchases of masks, disinfectants, testing supplies and other personal protective equipment (PPE) by states for schools and public buildings. The letter comes after FEMA, despite informing state and local officials for months that schools would be eligible for reimbursement for PPE, plastic desk barriers, disinfectants and other protective materials, reversed course. Under FEMA’s new policy, FEMA will only provide assistance for the “purchase and distribution of PPE that is directly related to the performance of otherwise eligible emergency work or is provided to healthcare workers, patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection, and first responders.” This has led communities across the state, which are already facing massive revenue shortfalls as a result of the economic impact of the pandemic, scrambling to cover costs for PPE and other supplies needed to protect school students, faculty and staff from the spread of the disease.
In her letter, Shaheen highlighted how FEMA’s policy change threatens to limit the state’s ability to protect schools and other public buildings. “States and localities are already facing budget shortfalls after months of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently found that states will face a cumulative $555 billion budget shortfall over state fiscal years 2020-2022. The Manchester, New Hampshire school district alone faces over $2.2 million in paid and encumbered expenses that the district had expected FEMA to reimburse. The district is also estimating over $11.3 million in COVID-19-related expenditures. If the federal government cannot guarantee that the purchase and distribution of these vital resources will be reimbursed through the Public Assistance Program, then New Hampshire school districts may not be able to afford to supply PPE and other supplies when and where they are needed.”
Shaheen continued, “It is particularly concerning that this decision comes at a time when schools are attempting to reopen and welcome students in a safe learning environment. The federal government should be doing everything it can to support these efforts rather than making it more difficult for schools to receive the resources they need to safely reopen.” Shaheen noted that FEMA’s failure to ensure schools and public buildings can access those supplies could put students and staff at risk of COVID-19 and the flu, which could burden the nation’s already strained health care infrastructure.
Shaheen concluded by urging the agency to immediately reverse this policy and inform Congress of any resource constraints it faces towards reimbursing purchases of PPE and other protective supplies. “Since the start of this pandemic, the federal government has struggled to provide the PPE, testing and other resources to keep our communities safe. This policy change appears to only exacerbate that problem and handicap efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”
The text of the letter can be seen here.
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