Overview of the FEMA Disaster Declaration
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. The incident period is from January 20, 2020 and continuing.
FEMA’s Public Assistance Grant Program reimburses state, local, and tribal government and certain types of private non-profit organizations (applicants) for certain types of disaster-related costs, which for this disaster declaration includes Category B costs: Emergency Protective Measures. Reimbursements are typically 75% of eligible costs, with the remaining 25% cost being the applicant’s responsibility. For more information on the federal cost share guidance, including CARES act funding, see guidance further down this page.
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.
It is important that applicants continue to track their costs, including direct and indirect administrative costs, to be able to have records to submit for reimbursement.
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. Once applicants have created a grants portal account, they will be assigned a program coordinator who will be the applicant's primary point of contact who can assist and answer questions during the process.
- Project formulation: The applicant provides detailed documentation on scope(s) of work and cost(s) incurred for the project. This project formulation is done within the FEMA Grants Portal system.
- 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 & Instructions:
Category Z Resources
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 below link. New applicants that have not yet completed a Request for Public Assistance (RPA) should also use the below form to start discussions with the MEMA Recovery Team.
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)
- Vaccine distribution
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.
Declaration Specific Guidance and Documents
The unique and wide ranging nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the need for various specific guidance from FEMA regarding the Public Assistance program and the disaster declaration. This includes specific guidance on the Federal Cost Share, procurement standards and many other topics. See the below sections and the various documents below for more guidance.
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.
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 https://massgov.formstack.com/forms/municipal_covid_spending_questions with any questions regarding CARES Act funding. Municipalities located in Plymouth County should contact county officials for information about the Coronavirus Relief Fund.
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.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
For frequently asked questions and answers for this disaster declaration including general information, eligible items, applying for PA, project development, and vaccines, see: COVID-19 Public Assistance Frequently Asked Questions.