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COVID-19 Federal Disaster Declaration

Federal aid will be available to cities and towns, state agencies and certain non-profits in all Massachusetts counties to help pay for emergency protective measures (response costs) related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Table of Contents

Declaration Information

On March 27, 2020, the President declared a Major Disaster Declaration for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, DR-4496, related to the COVID-19 pandemic response. This declaration supersedes the previous Emergency Declaration, EM-3438, granted to the Commonwealth of MA by the President on March 13, 2020. The Major Disaster Declaration, like the Emergency Declaration, authorizes only Category B, Emergency Protective Measures; making federal funding available to local governments, state agencies, and eligible private non-profit organizations in all counties. The incident period is from January 20, 2020 and continuing.

Applicants that have already submitted a Request for Public Assistance (RPA) under the Emergency Declaration EM-3438 do not have to resubmit under Major Disaster Declaration DR-4496. All RPAs submitted under EM-3438 will automatically be transferred to DR-4496.

It is important that applicants track their costs for the duration of the response to be ready to submit backup documentation for reimbursement once the crisis has passed. In addition to tracking eligible response costs, applicants should also track their direct and indirect administrative costs, as Category Z management costs will also be eligible for reimbursement under DR-4496. For more information on Category Z costs, see our FEMA Public Assistance webpage.

CRISIS COUNSELING: The Major Disaster Declaration also included the Crisis Counseling Program of FEMA's Individual Assistance Program. The Crisis Counseling Assistance program will be managed by the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH). If you are looking for crisis counseling information, see the DMH webpage: COVID-19 Information about DMH programs and services.

Additional Resources

About the Public Assistance Program

After a disaster, MEMA works with local, state, and federal partners to identify assistance programs that may be available.

FEMA’s PA Grant Program reimburses state, local, and tribal government and certain types of private non-profit organizations (applicants) for certain types of disaster-related costs, including eligible costs for debris removal, emergency protective measures, and the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged publicly owned facilities and the facilities of some Private Non-Profit (PNP) organizations. The PA Program also encourages protection of damaged buildings from future events through post disaster hazard mitigation grants.

Reimbursements are typically 75% of eligible costs, with the remaining 25% cost being the applicant’s responsibility.

Public Assistance Grant Process

For the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic, FEMA has announced a Simplified Public Assistance application process. This process will empower applicants to drive their own recovery and directly apply for assistance through FEMA’s PA Grants Portal. Elements of the grant process include:

  • Applicant Briefings:  MEMA held 5 virtual webinar briefings for potential Public Assistance applicants to learn more about the program and eligibility requirements. Recordings of the briefings, copies of the presentation slides, and written Question and Answers from each briefing are available on the Applicant Briefing section of MEMA’s webinar webpage.
  • Request for Public Assistance (RPA): Potential applicants complete an application to make an official request for PA. The RPA is submitted electronically through the FEMA Grants Portal system.
  • Project formulation: The applicant provides detailed documentation on scope(s) of work and cost(s) incurred for the project.
  • Project review: Federal and state officials review documentation and validate costs that are eligible for reimbursement.
  • Obligation: FEMA funds are sent to the State and the State pays each applicant through a state contract process.
  • Project closeout: Applicants submit all required documentation and certify all work was completed in accordance with necessary federal, state and local laws and regulations.


State Workbook 2020

VIDEO: Variable Workbook Instruction


Category Z Management Cost Workbook - 2020

VIDEO: Category Z Management Cost Instruction

CARES Act for Municipal Government

The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”) includes funds for Massachusetts governments to use to pay costs incurred in responding to the COVID-19 outbreak.

See CARES Act for Municipal Government webpage for details, eligibility, reporting, memos and guidance regarding the CARES Act.

Municipalities should contact the Federal Programs Office at the Executive Office for Administration and Finance at  with any questions regarding CARES Act funding. Municipalities located in Plymouth County should contact county officials for information about the Coronavirus Relief Fund.

The U.S. Treasury website also has information and FAQ about CARES Act Assistance for State, Local, and Tribal Governments.



All questions regarding general guidance, cost tracking and eligibility, and the FEMA Public Assistance (PA) program and process may be submitted to MEMA by clicking the following link:

Submit Question to the MEMA Recovery Team

Long URL:

Eligible Costs

FEMA may provide assistance only for the following emergency protective measures in response to COIVD-19 declared events:

  • Medical care
  • Purchase and distribution of food
  • Non-congregate medical sheltering
  • Operation of Emergency Operations Centers to direct and coordinate resources and response activities for COVID-19 declarations
  • Communications to disseminate public information regarding health and safety measures and provide warnings about risks and hazards
  • Mass casualty management, including storage of human remains and mass mortuary services, as necessary to manage fatalities caused by COVID-19
  • Purchase and distribution of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

To learn more about these eligible costs under the COVID-19 Major Disaster Declaration and see related policies, forms, and guidance, see: Eligible Costs for COVID-19 Federal Disaster Declaration.

FEMA Clarifies Federal Cost Share for Public Assistance Program

FEMA Fact Sheet “Coordinating Public Assistance and Other Sources of Federal Funding provides clear guidance on how FEMA will treat the multiple sources of funding as they relate to the public assistance program and its cost share requirements.

To respond to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Congress authorized over $3 trillion to multiple federal agencies to provide assistance to state, local, tribal, and territorial governments in addressing the effects of the public health emergency pandemic. The extensive COVID-19 authority of other federal agencies in some cases overlaps with FEMA authority.

Generally, funding from other federal agencies cannot be used to meet the FEMA public assistance non-federal cost share requirement. For COVID-19, however, there are two exceptions: Department of Treasury’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Relief Fund and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Disaster Block Grant (CDBG-CV). While cost share requirements vary from agency-to-agency and program-to-program, many programs funded by the CARES Act and the other supplemental appropriations do not require a non-federal share.  


Current Federal procurement standards (found at 2 C.F.R. § 200.320(f)(2)) allow non-state entities to noncompetitively procure contracts (i.e., sole-sourcing) under certain emergency or exigent circumstances. FEMA defines an emergency or exigent circumstances as unexpected and unusually dangerous situations requiring immediate action or an urgent need for assistance or relief.  For additional information regarding procurement requirements, please refer to the FEMA - Procurement During Emergency Circumstances Fact Sheet.

Additional Resources


For webinars about this disaster declaration including MEMA webinars, FEMA webinars, MEMA applicant briefings, and more, see Webinars for DR-4496 - COVID-19 Federal Disaster Declaration in Massachusetts.