WASHINGTON – Following a recent request from U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-Md.), urging then President-elect Biden to take immediate action upon assuming office to grant pending requests to waive the 25% non-federal cost share requirement for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance related to the COVID-19 pandemic, President Biden signed a memo this week directing FEMA to reimburse state, tribal, and local governments for 100 percent of the eligible COVID-19 related expenses that they incurred during the first year of the pandemic. The Senators previously pushed President Trump, but for months, he ignored repeated requests from governors, members of Congress, and local leaders across the country to increase the federal cost share.
This decision will now provide Maryland an additional $182 million in federal funding to cover the full cost of previously approved activities undertaken to combat COVID-19.
“Fully reimbursing the costs of responding to COVID-19 shores up the capacity of our state and local governments to respond to COVID-19 moving forward,” said Senator Cardin. “This decision fulfills the request that we have made on behalf of the state of Maryland since the very start of the pandemic. Even as we continue to push for needed funding for state and local governments through the legislative process, I am thankful to President Biden for heeding our call on FEMA support.”
“As our state and local governments mobilize frontline workers in the battle against COVID-19, we must ensure they receive the proper federal support,” said Senator Van Hollen. “We’ve called for this policy change for months in order to help cover the costs of emergency services for our local governments that have played a vital role in pandemic response efforts. These reimbursement funds will go a long way towards Maryland’s COVID-19 efforts and free up more funds for our response. I appreciate the Biden Administration’s quick action here, and I am committed to working together to deliver more support to Marylanders.”
This new move by the Biden Administration means FEMA reimbursements, retroactive to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic national emergency, will be adjusted to reflect the 100 percent cost share and will continue to provide assistance going forward, to expand the activities eligible for reimbursement to include activities that support the safe opening and operation of eligible schools, child care facilities, health care facilities, non-congregate shelters, domestic violence shelters, and transit systems. FEMA will develop new implementation guidance to carry out the President’s directives.
The full text of the Senators’ letter sent in January 2021 is copied below:
Dear President-elect Biden:
We write to urge you to take immediate action upon assuming office to grant pending requests to waive the 25% non-federal cost share requirement for FEMA assistance related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Notwithstanding the assistance provided under the CARES Act, the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2021, and other federal relief packages, state, local, and tribal governments continue to struggle to meet the fiscal challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. For this reason, most states and leading national organizations, including the National Governors Association, National Conference of State Legislatures, National League of Cities, National Association of Counties, the United States Conference of Mayors, and the Council of State Governments, have requested or supported relief from FEMA’s cost share requirements.
We were heartened in recent weeks by your reaffirmation that you intend to provide 100% federal cost share for National Guard personnel who are operating under Title 32 mission assignments in response to the pandemic. That is an appropriate and welcome step for those states that have relied on the National Guard in this effort. It would be similarly appropriate to extend relief for all FEMA assistance provided in the course of the pandemic and to consider cost share relief for other federally declared disasters that occurred in 2020.
COVID-19 has upended life for many Americans, and state, local, and tribal governments have faced the dual challenges of unexpected costs and declining revenues. Increasing the federal cost share for FEMA assistance will give them the budgetary space to effectively respond to the ongoing health and economic hardship the pandemic has created.
As you know, only one official — the President — has the authority to increase the federal cost share for disaster assistance. Because the Trump Administration has so far ignored numerous requests for this relief, we request that you exercise that authority as expeditiously as possible once you are in a position to do so.
Thank you for your consideration and we look forward to working with you on this and other matters.