[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – In an effort to protect public health and swiftly free up federal resources to help states with necessary COVID-19 response efforts, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) joined U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and 31 of their colleagues in urging the incoming Biden Administration to “take immediate action upon assuming office to grant pending requests to waive the 25% non-federal cost share requirement for FEMA assistance related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.”
To date, the Trump Administration has declined to allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to waive the full amount of cost-sharing requirements for emergency work undertaken by states and communities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Blumenthal and Murphy along with their colleagues, led by Reed, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Gary Peters (D-MI), penned a letter to President-elect Joe Biden urging him to waive the local match and maximize the full resources of the federal government to help states effectively combat COVID-19.
Typically, federal disaster funding requires a 25 percent state and local cost-sharing match. But through Direct Federal Assistance and Public Assistance for Emergency Protective Measures during a Major Disaster Declaration, FEMA is authorized to cover up to 100 percent of federal cost share for response and recovery costs “if warranted by the needs of the disaster.” However, so far, the Trump Administration has only authorized a federal cost share of 75 percent, leaving state and local governments to pick up 25 percent of the overall costs of fighting COVID-19.
“COVID-19 has upended life for many Americans, and state, local, and tribal governments have faced the dual challenges of unexpected costs and declining revenues. Increasing the federal cost share for FEMA assistance will give them the budgetary space to effectively respond to the ongoing health and economic hardship the pandemic has created,” the Senators wrote.
“As you know, only one official -- the President -- has the authority to increase the federal cost share for disaster assistance,” the letter continues. “Because the Trump Administration has so far ignored numerous requests for this relief, we request that you exercise that authority as expeditiously as possible once you are in a position to do so.”
Under the Trump Administration, FEMA has authorized 100 percent cost share in 22 disasters since January 2017. But with state and local governments in dire need of additional resources, President Trump has been unwilling to invoke his cost share authority to help defray the costs of this crisis and free up new resources to get the pandemic under control.
The Senators are urging Biden to take swift action, writing: “We were heartened in recent weeks by your reaffirmation that you intend to provide 100% federal cost share for National Guard personnel who are operating under Title 32 mission assignments in response to the pandemic. That is an appropriate and welcome step for those states that have relied on the National Guard in this effort. It would be similarly appropriate to extend relief for all FEMA assistance provided in the course of the pandemic and to consider cost share relief for other federally declared disasters that occurred in 2020.”
In addition to Blumenthal, Murphy, Reed, Schumer and Peters, the letter is signed by U.S. Senators: Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Michael Bennett (D-CO), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Christopher Coons (D-DE), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Angus King (I-ME), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Ed Markey (D-MA).
The full text of the letter can be found here.