Bipartisan letter to White House seeks change allowing more federal aid for state and local governments fighting COVID-19

PATERSON, NJ – U.S. Reps. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) and John Rutherford (R-FL-04) today led 175 of their Democratic and Republican House colleagues calling on the White House to eliminate the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) non-Federal cost share required under the COVID-19 emergency and major disaster declarations. The current formula requires states to pay 25 percent of public and individual assistance costs while the federal government is responsible for 75 percent of the costs. These declarations have unlocked precious new resources to state and local governments, and the elimination of cost-sharing would give these governments even more flexibility to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our nation now leads the world in confirmed COVID-19 cases. We worry the worst has yet to come. It is vital the federal government leverage the full weight of its resources to allow state, local, tribal and territorial governments to dedicate their limited resources to outbreak response efforts in their fight against the spread of COVID-19. Increasing the federal cost share of FEMA public assistance provides much-needed relief in additional federal assistance for state, local, tribal and territorial governments,” the members write.

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There is ample recent precedent for the members’ request as the cost share has been changed for past national crises. The federal portion of FEMA public assistance cost share was adjusted during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the devastating flooding in Louisiana in 2016, and the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in 2017.

The letter has the support of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, International Association of Fire Fighters, International City/County Management Association, National Association of Counties, National Governors Association, National League of Cities, National Volunteer Fire Council, and U.S. Conference of Mayors.

A copy of the members’ letter along with a full list of signatories is available here, the text of which is provided below.

 

April 20, 2020

 

President Donald J. Trump

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20500

 

Dear Mr. President:

 

We appreciate the steps you took to declare a nationwide emergency pursuant to Sec. 501(b) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. 5121-5207 (the “Stafford Act”). We also appreciate the approval of major disaster declaration requests pursuant to the emergency declaration by 50 U.S. states, tribes, and territories. We agree that the severity and magnitude of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has the potential to cause severe consequences for our country’s national and economic security. Given the unprecedented nature of this pandemic, we urge you to eliminate the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) non-Federal cost share currently required under these declarations to help state, local, tribal and territorial governments fight this global pandemic.

Since your initial nationwide emergency declaration, the number of positive cases has grown rapidly. Our nation now leads the world in confirmed COVID-19 cases. We worry the worst has yet to come. It is vital the federal government leverage the full weight of its resources to allow state, local, tribal and territorial governments to dedicate their limited resources to outbreak response efforts in their fight against the spread of COVID-19. Increasing the federal cost share of FEMA public assistance provides much-needed relief in additional federal assistance for state, local, tribal and territorial governments. Our request empowers those entities to focus their limited resources on containing and mitigating the virus.

Raising the federal cost share is not unprecedented and within your authority under Sec. 501(b) of the Stafford Act, which states “… the primary responsibility for response rests with the United States because… the United States exercises exclusive or preeminent responsibility and authority.” This authority has been invoked in times of past national crises. The federal portion of FEMA public assistance cost share has also been adjusted during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the devastating flooding in Louisiana in 2016, and the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in 2017. As our entire country faces the daunting challenge of defeating this global pandemic, the full capacity of the federal government needs to be used so those on the front lines can focus on saving lives and protect our most vulnerable populations.

Thank you very much for your attention to our request to help our state, local, tribal and territorial governments. It is an important and urgently needed step that will help our nation combat this global pandemic.

 

Sincerely,

 

Representatives Bill Pascrell, Jr., John Rutherford, Peter A. DeFazio, Alma S. Adams, Ph.D., Colin Allred, Joyce Beatty, Ami Bera, M.D., Earl Blumenauer, Anthony Brindisi, Anthony G. Brown, Julia Brownley, Cheri Bustos, G. K. Butterfield, Salud Carbajal, Tony Cárdenas, André Carson, Ed Case, Sean Casten, Kathy Castor, Judy Chu, David Cicilline, Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr., Katherine Clark, Yvette D. Clarke, Wm. Lacy Clay, Emanuel Cleaver, II, Steve Cohen, Gerald E. Connolly, Jim Cooper, Joe Courtney, Angie Craig, Charlie Crist, Jason Crow, Sharice L. Davids, Danny K. Davis, Madeleine Dean, Diana DeGette, Rosa L. DeLauro, Suzan DelBene, Val Butler Demings, Ted Deutch, Debbie Dingell, Mike Doyle, Eliot L. Engel, Veronica Escobar, Anna G. Eshoo, Adriano Espaillat, Dwight Evans, Brian Fitzpatrick, Lizzie Fletcher, Bill Foster, Marcia L. Fudge, Tulsi Gabbard, Ruben Gallego, John Garamendi, Sylvia R. Garcia, Jimmy Gomez, Vicente Gonzalez, Josh Gottheimer, Al Green, Raúl M. Grijalva, Deb Haaland, Alcee L. Hastings, Jahana Hayes, Denny Heck, Brian Higgins, Jim Himes, Steven Horsford, Chrissy Houlahan, Jared Huffman, Sheila Jackson Lee, Pramila Jayapal, Hakeem Jeffries, Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr., Eddie Bernice Johnson, Marcy Kaptur, William Keating, Robin L. Kelly, Joseph P. Kennedy, III, Daniel T. Kildee, Derek Kilmer, Andy Kim, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Conor Lamb, James R. Langevin, John B. Larson, Brenda L. Lawrence, Barbara Lee, Susie Lee, Andy Levin, Ted W. Lieu, Daniel W. Lipinski, Zoe Lofgren, Alan Lowenthal, Nita Lowey, Ben Ray Luján, Stephen F. Lynch, Tom Malinowski, Carolyn B. Maloney, Betty McCollum, A. Donald McEachin, James P. McGovern, Jerry McNerney, Gregory W. Meeks, Grace Meng, Joseph D. Morelle, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Stephanie Murphy, Jerrold Nadler, Grace F. Napolitano, Joe Neguse, Donald Norcross, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Frank Pallone, Jr., Jimmy Panetta, Chris Pappas, Donald M. Payne, Jr., Ed Perlmutter, Chellie Pingree, Stacey E. Plaskett, Mark Pocan, Ayanna Pressley, David E. Price, Aumua Amata Radewagen, Jamie Raskin, Kathleen M. Rice, Cedric L. Richmond, Max Rose, Harley Rouda, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Raul Ruiz, M.D., C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Bobby L. Rush, Tim Ryan, Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, Michael F.Q. San Nicolas, Linda T. Sanchez, John P. Sarbanes, Jan Schakowsky, Adam B. Schiff, Bradley S. Schneider, Robert C. "Bobby" Scott, David Scott, José E. Serrano, Donna E. Shalala, Brad Sherman, Mikie Sherrill, Albio Sires, Elissa Slotkin, Adam Smith, Darren Soto, Jackie Speier, Greg Stanton, Haley M. Stevens, Thomas R. Suozzi, Eric Swalwell, Mark Takano, Mike Thompson, Dina Titus, Rashida Tlaib, Paul D. Tonko, Norma J. Torres, Xochitl Torres Small, David Trone, Lauren Underwood, Juan Vargas, Filemon Vela, Nydia M. Velazquez, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Maxine Waters, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Peter Welch, Frederica S. Wilson, and John Yarmuth