WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV), a member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs (HSGAC), and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), joined a letter led by Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) highlighting the Biden Administration’s decision to retroactively reimburse states for certain costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and urging the Administration to apply this same policy to schools.

“We write today to urge the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to review and retroactively approve Public Assistance requests from schools and other education facilities for eligible emergency protective measures necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic. While FEMA works to ensure that these expenses will be eligible for reimbursement going forward, it is critical that FEMA retroactively applies this decision to expenses incurred since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic,” wrote the Senators.

BACKGROUND: The American Rescue Plan that was recently signed into law included $50 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to reimburse states and localities for COVID-19 related emergency expenses such as personal protective equipment. This funding is on top of the $45 billion that was allocated to the Fund through the federal CARES Act that Congress passed last year. However, under the previous Administration, FEMA denied reimbursement that schools across the country were counting on. The Biden Administration has reversed that decision. Currently though, the reimbursement is not retroactive, so it does not cover expenses from 2020.

In addition to Senator Hassan, who led the letter, the letter was signed by Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Alex Padilla (D-CA). All four Senators serve on HSGAC, which has oversight jurisdiction over FEMA. 

The full text of the letter can be found here and below:

Dear Mr. Fenton:

We write today to urge the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to review and retroactively approve Public Assistance requests from schools and other education facilities for eligible emergency protective measures necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We were pleased when the Biden administration recently expanded eligible expenses for Public Assistance by directing FEMA to reimburse schools for certain costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, including the purchase of personal protective equipment and disinfecting services. We understand that this decision requires FEMA to create new guidance documents to ensure effective implementation of this change to the Public Assistance program, and we appreciate FEMA’s work to implement this change expeditiously.

While FEMA works to ensure that these expenses will be eligible for reimbursement going forward, it is critical that FEMA retroactively applies this decision to expenses incurred since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Biden administration has already announced retroactive changes to FEMA Public Assistance for COVID-19 related to the federal cost share of Public Assistance, stating that the agency will be, “…retroactively reimbursing states fully for FEMA-eligible services – including masks, gloves, emergency feeding actions, sheltering at risk populations, and mobilization of the National Guard – back dated to the beginning of the pandemic in January 2020.” In the wake of this announcement, we urge the Biden administration to extend this same retroactive reimbursement change to Public Assistance for schools for these newly eligible expenses.

 We look forward to working with FEMA and the entire Biden administration to support our schools throughout the course of this pandemic. Please do not hesitate to contact our staff with any questions you may have.

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