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The deadline for 100% reimbursement from FEMA’s Public Assistance Program for COVID-19 costs is now July 1 after President Joe Biden pushed the deadline back from April 1, as outlined in a White House memorandum this week.
Under the program, FEMA can provide 100% of the funding for any COVID-19 costs incurred by healthcare organizations, ranging from medical care and vaccinations to operational costs. The federal agency can also give 100% of federal funding to the National Guard for the same reason.
“It is the policy of my Administration to combat and respond to the … pandemic with the full capacity and capability of the Federal Government to protect and support our families, schools, and businesses, and to assist State, local, Tribal, and territorial governments to do the same,” wrote Biden in the memorandum.
WHAT’S THE IMPACT?
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell told PBS this week that the extension builds on the administration’s efforts to assist communities that have been severely impacted by the coronavirus.
Examples of recent FEMA funding include $91.8 million to the state of Wisconsin to help cover testing costs and bolster staffing in treatment centers, and $1.2 million to Indiana’s Ball State University in February to cover on-campus testing.
Biden’s directive comes as COVID-19 case counts are falling in several parts of the country. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the Utah Department of Health reported 396 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, marking the eighth straight day that the state’s daily count has remained below 400. Active infections in South Dakota are at their lowest point since a major surge swept through the state in the summer of 2021, with only 96 active cases, according to the Rapid City Journal. The Cape Cod Times said that new cases in Massachusetts are plummeting, with a seven-day average of about 633 new cases – the lowest average seen since last July.
Regardless, the White House still sees a need for federal resources in combating the virus’ spread. The Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracker shows the country’s 28-day case total at about 3.2 million, bringing the overall total to about 57 million. More than 950,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, or a combination of the coronavirus and other comorbidities, since the pandemic began in 2020.
In addition to hospitals and other healthcare settings, the FEMA funding may also apply to other entities that have been affected by the virus, including schools and institutions of higher learning, according to a FEMA advisory.
As far as National Guard funding is concerned, that branch remains under the command and control of their respective governors, but is funded by the Department of Defense. FEMA has assigned the DOD to fund Title 32 National Guard deployments to support state and territorial efforts to combat the pandemic.
THE LARGER TREND
More than 14,000 National Guard members have been sent to dozens of the harder-hit states over the past few months, and the federal government said in January it’s ramping up its shipments of COVID-19 treatments, including antiviral medications. The White House has also directed FEMA to ensure hospitals have adequate bed capacity.
Biden stressed at the time the importance of continuing to wear masks, which plays an important role in slowing the spread, especially in indoor spaces and public gatherings.