Overview of the FEMA Public Assistance (PA) Program
The Federal Emergency Management Agency Public Assistance grant program (FEMA PA) reimburses eligible entities for certain costs incurred during a declared federal disaster. The public health emergency caused by COVID-19 was declared a federal major disaster in Massachusetts on March 27, 2020, with an incident period beginning January 20, 2020 (DR-4496-MA).
The table below provides information about FEMA PA applications that have been obligated to state agencies:
Policy Changes to FEMA PA
There have been several changes to FEMA PA reimbursement rate and eligibility policies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On January 21, 2021, the President of the United States issued a memo that instructed FEMA to increase the reimbursement rate for certain eligible COVID-19 costs submitted to FEMA PA from 75 percent to 100 percent for costs incurred between January 20, 2020 and September 30, 2021.
On February 2, 2021, the President of the United States issued a second memo expanding the 100 percent reimbursement rate to all eligible emergency response costs.
On August 17, 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order that extends the expanded eligibility guidelines to cover the entirety of the disaster. This allows for retroactive 100 percent reimbursement of eligible safe opening and operating costs prior to January 2021, back to the beginning of the pandemic.
On November 10, 2021, the President of the United States announced FEMA funding to support all eligible COVID-19 costs will continue at a 100 percent federal cost share through April 1, 2022. This was extended subsequently to June 30, 2022. Costs incurred after July 1, 2022 will be reimbursed at 90 percent.
The eligibility guidelines for FEMA PA have changed multiple times through the COVID-19 public health emergency. A full list of policy changes can be found on the FEMA PA Resource Library.
Expedited Payment for Vaccine Distribution
On January 25, 2021, FEMA issued a memo on prioritized approval for vaccine-related costs. On February 4, 2021, the Commonwealth was approved for a $426 million application for funding to support vaccine distribution, of which 50 percent, about $213 million, was granted as an advance.
In general, to receive FEMA reimbursement, the state, local, and tribal government, or private non-profit must incur costs, then complete a Streamlined Project Application in the FEMA Grants Portal, as well as upload sufficient documentation to submit the claimed costs. Once an applicant has submitted their application, FEMA will review the application and will scope and cost the project into a Project Worksheet (PW). Once the PW has progressed through each level of approval in the FEMA PA process, the applicant's PW is ultimately obligated.
The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) is the Commonwealth’s applicant and primary point of contact with FEMA. All Massachusetts entities submit FEMA applications through the FEMA Grants Portal with assigned MEMA project coordinators to provide technical assistance throughout the life cycle of the grant. When a project is obligated, MEMA then receives the funds from FEMA and passes it through to the applicant if the applicant is not a state agency. FEMA reimbursement for state agencies is deposited in the general fund.