Effective March 13, 2020, President Trump declared a National Emergency, allowing for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) assistance through the Public Assistance program following the impacts to COVID-19 (“Coronavirus”), as authorized under Section 501(b) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. 51217-5207 (the “Stafford Act”). What does this mean for Public Entities?

As per FEMA’s webisite: “In accordance with section 502 of the Stafford Act, eligible emergency protective measures taken to respond to the COVID-19 emergency at the direction or guidance of public health officials’ may [emphasis added] be reimbursed under Category B of the agency’s Public Assistance program.”[1]

Therefore, it is important for Public Entities to understand what emergency protective measure / Category B expenses are, as these costs may now be available through the FEMA Public Assistance program. As defined in the FEMA Public Assistance Program and Policy Guide[1]:

“Emergency protective measures conducted before, during, and after an incident are eligible if the measures:

  • Eliminate or lessen immediate threats to lives, public health, or safety; OR
  • Eliminate or lessen immediate threats of significant additional damage to improved public or private property in a cost-effective manner.”

Examples listed by FEMA include, but are not limited to the following[3]:

  • Transporting and pre-positioning equipment and other resources for response
  • Emergency Operation Center (EOC)-related costs
  • Emergency access
  • Supplies and commodities
  • Medical care and transport
  • Evacuation and sheltering, including that provided by another State or Tribal government
  • Childcare
  • Safety inspections
  • Demolition of structures
  • Search and rescue to locate survivors, household pets, and service animals requiring assistance
  • Security, such as barricades, fencing, or law enforcement
  • Use or lease of temporary generators for facilities that provide essential community services
  • Dissemination of information to the public to provide warnings and guidance about health and safety hazards using various strategies, such as flyers, public service announcements, or newspaper campaigns

FEMA recently communicated that it will NOT duplicate assistance provided by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or other federal agencies, which is consistent with FEMA Policy.[1] In areas where no duplication exists, and FEMA has determined expenses incurred are eligible, FEMA will provide reimbursement at a 75% percent Federal cost share.

Now that you have an understanding of what expenses could be reimbursed through FEMA Public Assistance for this pandemic, we have outlined 5 tips to keep in mind as you begin to document your claim:

1. Be sure to stay updated with the latest information from your Local, State and Federal Government, including HHS, FEMA and your Insurance provider(s).

As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold and develop, please be sure to sign up for any email or text alerts / updates to ensure that you have the latest information available as you continue to assess your potential claim.

2. Track all Orders from your Local, State and Federal Government that may impact your business

To date, a number of orders have been issued by local, state and federal governments that may have restricted your business operation. Keep track of these orders! You may be asked to provide this information as you begin to submit your claims for reimbursement.

3. Track all Coronavirus costs to a designated Coronavirus cost code.

Tracking costs to a single cost code will allow internal management and your accounting department to understand and gauge the impact the pandemic had, or is having, on your operation. Keep in mind the ‘BUT FOR’ principle, but for the pandemic / government order would your entity have incurred these costs? If the answer is NO, capture the cost.

4.  Do not ASSUME costs are NOT covered!

Though expenditures may not fall into the above listed sample categories for emergency protective measures, does not mean funding will not become available via other sources later on. By making assumptions on eligibility, you may lose the potential for cost recovery. Your claim can always be reduced!

5. Set up a Communication Plan

Once your claim has been submitted, set up a re-occurring weekly call with your FEMA representatives, or other agency representatives if possible. Consistent and effective communication allows your entity to stay at the fore-front, and helps to keep the pressure on the various agencies to address your claim. There is no guarantee that your claim will be processed quicker, but you certainly want to make sure that you are not falling to the back of the queue!

Download our Public Entity Cost Worksheet by clicking here and visiting our Resource Directory

[1] https://www.fema.gov/news-release/2020/03/13/covid-19-emergency-declaration

[2] https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1525468328389-4a038bbef9081cd7dfe7538e7751aa9c/PAPPG_3.1_508_FINAL_5-4-2018.pdf

[3] Please note, this listing is simply to serve as a guide of items that may be covered by FEMA. Please refer to materials provided by your FEMA Region as to what expenses will or will not be covered following the COVID-19 Pandemic.

[4 ] For more information on HHS, please refer the HHS’s website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html. In addition, for more information on funding provided by HHS for your State, please refer to: https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2020/03/11/cdc-funding-information.html

Please be advised that any and all information, comments, analysis, and/or recommendations set forth above relative to the possible impact of COVID-19 on potential insurance coverage or other policy implications are intended solely for informational purposes and should not be relied upon as legal advice. As an insurance broker, we have no authority to make coverage decisions as that ability rests solely with the issuing carrier. Therefore, all claims should be submitted to the carrier for evaluation. The positions expressed herein are opinions only and are not to be construed as any form of guarantee or warrantee. Finally, given the extremely dynamic and rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation, comments above do not take into account any applicable pending or future legislation introduced with the intent to override, alter or amend current policy language.