Shaheen, Hassan, and Bipartisan Colleagues Call for FEMA to Help Individuals, States Respond to COVID-19 Pandemic

March 23, 2020

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined a bipartisan group of senators to urge President Trump to exercise authorities used in the wake of natural disasters to provide direct emergency assistance to individuals and families, and expand assistance to state and local governments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As the entire nation faces the challenges of a global pandemic, we are asking that your administration unlock the full capacity of the federal government so that we can work on the frontlines to save lives and protect our most vulnerable populations,” the senators wrote in a letter to President Trump

Typically, state and local governments are required to pay 25 percent of the total cost of projects that are eligible for reimbursement through the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) Public Assistance (PA) program, which can include funds for emergency protective measures and public health activities. However, when major incidents occur, the federal government may reimburse up to 100 percent of the cost. The bipartisan letter that Senators Hassan, Shaheen, and colleagues sent calls on the president to cover 100 percent of costs that state and local governments incur while using the Public Assistance program.

The senators are also calling on the president to authorize FEMA’s Individual Assistance (IA) program, which can be used by households to reimburse emergency costs such as medical care, childcare, and transportation expenses related to a nationwide emergency declaration.

The senators argued that the strain on the American people and local and state governments during this public health emergency is similar to dealing with the impact and aftermath of a natural disaster.

“It is vital that the federal government leverage all of its resources to help state and local governments fight to slow and stop the spread of COVID-19,” the senators continued. “Increasing the federal cost share for FEMA PA to 100% and unlocking IA for affected families are important steps that will help our nation combat this massive threat.”

Full text of the letter is below and can be downloaded here:

March 20, 2020

President Donald J. Trump

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We urge you to use the authority vested in you by the Stafford Act to increase the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Public Assistance (PA) federal cost share to 100% and authorize Individual Assistance (IA) in order fight this global pandemic.  It is vital that the federal government leverage all of its resources to help state and local governments fight to slow and stop the spread of COVID-19.

We appreciate the step you took last week in declaring the COVID-19 pandemic a national emergency, which enabled FEMA to assist communities to respond to COVID-19 through its PA program.  Unfortunately, since the original emergency declaration made last week, cases have only grown more rapidly and the worst is likely still to come.  Increasing the federal cost share of FEMA PA will allow state and local governments to focus solely on containing and mitigating the outbreak of the virus without having to be hamstrung by rising costs and limited budgets. 

Raising the federal cost share is not an unprecedented step. During the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and the devastating Louisiana floods of 2016, the federal cost share was increased beyond 75%.  Now as the entire nation faces the challenges of a global pandemic, we are asking that your administration unlock the full capacity of the federal government so that we can work on the frontlines to save lives and protect our most vulnerable populations.

During this time of crisis, it is important, now more than ever, that every level of government utilize all available resources to stem and curb the spread of COVID-19.  Increasing the federal cost share for FEMA PA to 100% and unlocking IA for affected families are important steps that will help our nation combat this massive threat. 

Shaheen and Hassan have fought for and voted in favor of two economic response bills to provide financial relief to states in their response efforts, and to support workers, businesses and families impacted by the spread of the coronavirus. The President signed both bills into law. The first economic package led to New Hampshire receiving an initial $4.9 million in funds from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Shaheen is currently a lead negotiator on a third economic response bill, where she is working around the clock with Senators Rubio (R-FL), Cardin (D-MD) and Collins (R-ME) on provisions to assist small businesses impacted by the coronavirus crisis.