Menendez, Hyde Smith Lead Bipartisan Bill to Eliminate FEMA Cost-Share for 2020 Disasters to Help States, Cities during Pandemic

Menendez, Hyde Smith Lead Bipartisan Bill to Eliminate FEMA Cost-Share for 2020 Disasters to Help States, Cities during Pandemic

Bill would ease COVID-19 burden to aid disaster recovery where needed


WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Cindy Hyde Smith (R-Miss.) today introduced bipartisan legislation to eliminate the cost-share payments required of states and communities included in federal disaster declarations in 2020.  The bill is cosponsored by Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.).

The Local Community Emergency Relief Act of 2020 is the second Senate proposal offered this week to mitigate coronavirus-related financial burdens affecting states and cities.  Not limited to the COVID-19 emergency declaration, the bill would require the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide a 100 percent cost share for all federal emergency declarations and major disaster declarations during calendar year 2020.

“New Jersey is on the frontlines of the pandemic in the U.S. with over 150,000 of our fellow residents infected, more than 10,000 of our loved ones and neighbors lost, an economy that’s been shaken, and tax revenues decimated,” said Sen. Menendez.  “At a time when states and local governments across the country are considering laying off essential workers and cutting basic services for their residents, the least the federal government can do to provide some relief is waive the local match for emergency aid.  That way, those limited resources can be used to keep more police, firefighters, paramedics, teachers, transit, public health and other frontline workers on the job and the critical services they provide going.”    

“Cities and states are incurring ongoing revenue losses related to the COVID-19 emergency, and the federal government should utilize available tools and resources to ease that burden.  This is especially the case for areas hit by disasters.  Funding to meet the FEMA cost share requirements should instead be available for local front line work to overcome pandemic,” Sen. Hyde-Smith said

“State and local communities have seen their budgets devastated by the COVID-19 economic lockdown. Adding a disaster, such as a hurricane, on top of the current crisis would make recovery extremely difficult, if not impossible.  This is a forward-looking bill to prevent disasters from derailing our recovery,” said Sen. Cassidy.  

“Communities in Michigan and across the country are facing unprecedented challenges as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, and they need the full resources and support the federal government can help provide as we tackle this emergency together.  That’s why I have been calling on the Administration to make this change and relieve this burden on state and local governments,” said Sen. Peters, Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.  “On top of the public health and economic crisis we’re in, communities in Mid-Michigan are being evacuated from their homes by historic flooding.  Michiganders need help, and this legislation will ensure that every community will be able to get the federal aid they need to address terrible disasters like these.”

FEMA disaster assistance generally requires a 75 percent cost-share commitment from the federal government with 25 percent provided from nonfederal sources.  However, after Superstorm Sandy in 2012, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and major Louisiana floods in 2016 FEMA increased the federal share beyond 75 percent to ease the burden on recovering cities, counties, and states.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that Congress passed in March included $45 billion for the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund to help states provide for immediate needs and essential services to protect citizens and recover from the outbreak.  New Jersey, which is included in the President’s Major Disaster Declaration, has already received nearly $108 million in FEMA Public Assistance (PA) grants.

Sen. Menendez has led bipartisan requests from both the New Jersey congressional delegation and his Senate colleagues, which was co-led by Sen. Cassidy, calling on President Trump to completely eliminate the local cost-sharing for FEMA disaster grants.

Sen. Menendez also led the delegation’s support for Gov. Phil Murphy’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration, making the state eligible for these additional federal resources to combat the coronavirus.

Earlier this week, Sens. Menendez, Cassidy and Hyde Smith introduced the bipartisan State and Municipal Assistance for Recovery and Transition (SMART) Act, which targets $500 billion in emergency funding to every state, county and community in the country, while prioritizing assistance to the areas with the greatest need.  The SMART Fund is also cosponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).