FEMA Declares New York State a Major Disaster Allowing Access to Over 42 Billion Dollars in Funds
On Friday, March 20, 2020, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) declared New York State a Major Disaster. This comes with President Trump’s approval upon the state having reached over 7,000 verified cases of the Coronavirus. This, in effect, allows the New York to access over $42 billion in aid. This is in addition to the $6 billion for New York the Senators secured in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act by Senators Charles Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
The two senators were also behind the push to secure this Major Disaster Declaration (MDD).
“With more and more cases confirmed in New York each day, it’s imperative that the federal government does everything within its power to support New York in the state effort to stem the spread of the deadly coronavirus,”
“We’re at a vital point in the battle against the disease, and we need to do everything in our power to stop it, right here, right now. There is no compromise when it comes to the health and lives of New Yorkers, and I’m glad the administration recognized that and approved the nation’s first Major Disaster Declaration in response to the coronavirus, right here in New York.”
“Approving the Major Disaster Declaration was an essential step in our fight against coronavirus…All federal resources available must be used to help New York respond to the coronavirus outbreak. I’m glad the administration is taking the health and safety of New Yorkers seriously by releasing additional funding to help our state respond.”
There were reported 7,000 cases state-wide on Friday and at the time of this writing on Saturday, March 21, it’s well over 8,000. Of that number, New York City has nearly 6,000 with 43 deaths.
As per FEMA’s website:
Major Declaration: The President can declare a Major Disaster Declaration for any natural event, including any hurricane, tornado, storm, high water, wind-driven water, tidal wave, tsunami, earthquake, volcanic eruption, landslide, mudslide, snowstorm, or drought, or, regardless of cause, fire, flood, or explosion, that the President believes has caused damage of such severity that it is beyond the combined capabilities of state and local governments to respond. A major disaster declaration provides a wide range of federal assistance programs for individuals and public infrastructure, including funds for both emergency and permanent work.
Assistance Available for Major Declarations
Not all programs, however, are activated for every disaster. The determination of which programs are authorized is based the types of assistance specified in the governor’s request and on the needs identified during joint PDA and any subsequent PDAs. FEMA disaster assistance programs are as follows:
Individual Assistance – Assistance to individuals and households;
Public Assistance – Assistance to state and local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations for emergency work and the repair or replacement of disasterdamaged facilities; and
Hazard Mitigation Assistance – Assistance to state and local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations for actions taken to prevent or reduce long term risk to life and property from natural hazards.
Senator Schumer and Gillibrand’s letter sent to the President earlier this week calling for the MDD can be found below:
Dear President Trump:
We write in strong support of a Major Disaster Declaration (MDD) for New York in the wake of the corona virus 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak. This will provide New York with access to the full funding of the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) and ensure the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has the resources and authority needed to address the COVID-19 outbreak in New York swiftly and effectively.
The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 5121-5207 (the Stafford Act) authorizes the President to grant a MDD any natural catastrophe that the President determines has caused damage of sufficient severity and magnitude. While the Stafford Act does focus on kinetic events, like fires or floods, this pandemic outbreak has caused serve damage to the state of New York. To assess the severity of the damage, FEMA and New York would traditionally engage in a Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) as outlined in 44 C.F.R 206.33. In this case, subsection (d) would allow FEMA to waive the need for a PDA as the damage caused by the COVID-19 outbreak is so severe. We support New York’s request to have FEMA’s Region 2 Administrator utilize this exemption and speed the flow of aid to New York.
If granted, this MDD should allow FEMA to provide New York with Public and Individual Assistance under the Stafford Act at a 75% federal to 25% state cost share for eligible expenses and activities. Specifically, Governor Cuomo has requested Individual Assistance from three programs: Disaster Unemployment Assistance, Temporary Shelter Assistance, and the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Additionally, New York has requested Public Assistance for Emergency Protective Measures, Debris Removal, and Direct Federal Assistance. Importantly, a MDD would also provide New York State with access to the full $42.643 billion available with the DRF, as of February 29, 2020 according to the March 6, 2020 Disaster Relief Fund: Monthly Report – Fiscal Year 2020 Report to Congress. According to FEMA’s Public Assistance Program and Policy Guide v3.1, emergency protective work could include assistance such as: medically necessary tests and diagnostics; treatment, stabilization, and monitoring; a one-time 30-day supply of prescriptions for acute conditions or to replace maintenance prescriptions; vaccinations for survivors and emergency workers to prevent outbreaks of infectious and communicable diseases; durable medical equipment; consumable medical supplies; temporary facilities, such as tents or portable buildings for treatment of survivors; leased or purchased equipment for use in temporary medical care facilities; security for temporary medical care facilities; use of ambulances for distributing immunizations and setting up mobile medical units; and 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.
As of March 17, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported COVID-19 cases across New York, including: 644 in New York City, 380 in Westchester County, 131 cases in Nassau County, 84 in Suffolk County, 23 in Albany County, 22 in Rockland County, 15 in Orange County, 10 in Monroe County, 9 in Saratoga County, 8 in Ulster County, 7 in Erie County, 5 in Schenectady County, 2 in Allegany County, 2 in Greene County, 2 in Onondaga County, 2 in Putnam County, 2 in Tompkins County, 1 in Broome County, 1 in Clinton County, 1 in Delaware County, 1 in Herkimer County, 1 in Montgomery County, 1 in Ontario County, 1 in Rensselaer County, 1 in Sullivan County, 1 in Tioga County, and 1 in Wyoming County. While the immediate health risk to the majority of the New Yorkers is thought to remain low, the challenges of community spread have already begun to strain state and local government responses, particularly health departments. New York State and local officials are working hard to mitigate the outbreak and protect New Yorkers and ongoing federal resources are badly needed to support those efforts.
As New York continues to address the escalating outbreak of COVID-19, we urge you to expeditiously grant the state’s request for a MDD and instruct FEMA to stand ready to provide all available assistance to save lives and protect public health and safety in New York while continuing to work closely with state and local officials.