Menendez, Cassidy Lead Bipartisan Call for FEMA to Help Individuals, States Handle COVID-19 Outbreak

Menendez, Cassidy Lead Bipartisan Call for FEMA to Help Individuals, States Handle COVID-19 Outbreak

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) today urged President Trump to exercise authorities used in the wake of natural disasters to provide direct emergency assistance to individuals and families and waive local cost sharing in order to pump more federal resources into states and communities responding to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.  

“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,” the senators wrote in a letter to President Trump.  “Unfortunately, since the original emergency declaration made last week, cases have only grown more rapidly and the worst is likely still to come.” 

After Superstorm Sandy battered New Jersey and other states in 2012 and major flooding hit Louisiana in 2016, the federal government in many cases covered 100% of the cost to repair damaged public buildings and infrastructure through Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) Public Assistance (PA).  Typically, state and local governments are required pay 25% of the total cost. 

In both cases, as well as in response to other natural disasters, presidents have authorized, through the Stafford Act, FEMA Individual Assistance (IA) to help support residents and families recover.

The senators argued the strain on the American people and local and state governments during this public health emergency is no different than 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.”

The senators’ letter was cosigned by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maizie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).

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.  

Sincerely,

 

###