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Shaheen, Senators Call on FEMA to Rescind Guidance that Ends Federal Reimbursements for PPE and Disinfectant Purchases by States

(Washington, DC) – Late last week, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) sent a letter with a group of lawmakers to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Peter Gaynor, requesting that the agency reverse new guidance that ends federal reimbursements for certain purchases of personal protective equipment (PPE), testing and disinfectant supplies by states. In their letter, the Senators call on the agency to increase – not decrease – support to states amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as numbers rise to nearly 6.5 million cases and at least 190,000 deaths in the United States.

The Senators wrote, “In March, FEMA released guidance on COVID-19 funding that lists testing, disinfectants, and PPE as eligible expenses under all COVID-19 disaster declarations. In the wake of this guidance, we worked closely with our states, cities, localities, and tribal partners to ensure that the most urgent needs were expeditiously addressed by FEMA. The funding that FEMA provided saved countless lives and continues to do so.”

The Senators went on to address the recent changes by FEMA, as of September 1, 2020, which limit FEMA funding in the important areas listed above and justifies policy changes by saying that certain testing, disinfectants and PPE is no longer eligible for operating reopening costs, ignoring the mitigating impact that these measures have had on the spread of COVID-19. The Senators wrote, “Testing, disinfectants, and PPE were not part of everyday American life before this pandemic, and their use is not an increased operating cost, it is a necessary part of our survival. These costs are clearly linked to our response to COVID-19 and therefore should be eligible for FEMA funding.”

The lawmakers explained that these new restrictions would risk leaving frontline workers, including teachers, firefighters and transit workers, without the supplies they need to protect themselves and their families. Additionally, the Senators pointed out that the new FEMA guidance coincided with President Trump’s new program to provide additional federal assistance on top of state unemployment assistance. This “Lost Wages Assistance” program through FEMA has already allocated over $30 billion. The Senators warned that if the administration is to deny states access to necessary funding to combat COVID-19 to support this new unemployment assistance program, that FEMA is “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

The Senators closed their letter with an urgent call for FEMA to reverse the guidance and continue to fund the purchase of PPE for non-medical workers, testing, and disinfectant supplies for schools and public buildings. They signed their letter, “We need FEMA’s support in the battle against COVID-19, not to pull the rug out from under states and localities.”

The letter, which was led by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on behalf of a group of 21 Senators, can be read in full here.

Senator Shaheen has fought to secure urgently needed personal protective equipment for New Hampshire. Senator Shaheen previously introduced the Homeland Procurement Reform Act, which would require the Department of Homeland Security to increase the amount of PPE it procures from American companies. This bill has bipartisan support and would help to ensure that the domestic supply chain for PPE is capable of supplying the critical items that FEMA and other federal agencies need during a national emergency.

In April, Shaheen introduced legislation that lays out a framework for an effective COVID-19 response by federalizing and adding critical oversight and transparency to the supply chain for critical medical supplies and equipment. She also called on the administration to fully utilize the DPA to ensure the VA has the supplies and equipment needed to protect veterans from COVID-19. With the state’s congressional delegation, Shaheen has sent multiple letters to the Trump administration requesting rapid assistance to ensure New Hampshire health care providers have the supplies needed to address coronavirus cases the state is experiencing. In addition, Shaheen sent a letter pressing the administration for information on the distribution of critical medical supplies, including personal protective equipment. Shaheen repeatedly called for the President to invoke the Defense Production Act and introduced legislation to expedite the procurement of medical equipment, under the DPA.