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What’s New: Fighting COVID-19 – 6 Months Later

What’s New: Fighting COVID-19 – 6 Months Later

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For six months, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been partnering with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, (HHS), its public health component known as Assistant Secretary for Preparedness & Response(ASPR) and multiple other federal agencies to support a regional and national response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, also known as COVID-19. 

Friday, FEMA Region 7’s efforts represent more than $1.1 billion in financial assistance to the states of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska, local municipalities, tribal nations and certain private, non-profit organizations to help with the COVID-19 response.

FEMA’s regional office and staff, along with HHS Region 7 staff, have been supporting the pandemic response in other ways too.  Here’s a glance at key actions taken throughout the last six months:

  • The FEMA effort began when President Trump declared a nationwide emergency on March 13, 2020 under the Robert T. Stafford Act to help reimburse certain emergency costs and/or provide direct federal assistance to local, state and territorial governments, as well as tribal nations.
  • The states of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska and nine federally recognized tribes in those states were included in this sweeping designation. These entities fall within the area of responsibility for the Region 7 offices of both FEMA and HHS.
  • Subsequently, all four states requested and received major disaster declarations for COVID-19 between March 23 and April 4, 2020.
  • March 16, 2020, FEMA Region 7 activated its Regional Response Coordination Center in Kansas City, Missouri to provide a coordinated federal response to assist local, state and tribal partners in the Midwest with COVID-19 efforts. 
  • FEMA immediately established small teams of emergency management specialists to support state emergency management staffs and tribal leadership as their COVID-19 responses ramped up.  HHS provided similar support through designated public health liaisons. Both agencies are continuing to provide technical support to the states and tribal nations.  
  • As issues emerged, joint task forces were created within the FEMA/HHS operation to address specific needs such as: procuring medical supplies and equipment, surveying and establishing COVID testing and contact tracing capabilities, assessing needs for Alternate Care Sites to supplement hospital capacity, identifying ways the private sector could support government efforts, and communicating critical public information.  
  • Communication channels were established for key sectors and affected populations to provide conversation forums that helped identify challenges, issues and solutions, as well as providing timely and accurate information. This included regular conference calls with Congressional offices, with tribal leaders, with private-sector partners and communications with local, elected officials among others.
  • An extensive media monitoring operation was launched to provide real-time situational information to senior FEMA and HHS leadership to aid in identifying issues and potential shortfalls for action.
  • A planning team was assembled to manage the volumes of incoming and outgoing information necessary to the support the federal operation and to keep the teams informed.
  • A data analytics team of FEMA and HHS staff was set up to collect and analyze information such as testing, positive and negative case counts, fatalities, infection rates, hot spots and other key data.
  • A logistics team of FEMA and HHS staff helped order and track shipments for Region 7 states and tribes of essential medical equipment such as ventilators and infrared thermometers, as well as more than one billion pieces of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect healthcare workers, first responders, nursing home staff and others that included masks, gloves, gowns, coveralls and eye/face shields.
  • At the peak of operations, more than 140 FEMA Region 7 staff were supporting COVID-19 response efforts in the four states and the nine tribal nations.
  • Mission assignments were issued for other federal agencies to assist state and local efforts in a number of key areas.  Most of these were in the form of Direct Federal Assistance (DFA), which means that a federal resource is used to perform an action on behalf of a state, locality or tribe when those entities cannot directly perform or contract for that function. To date, $133 million has been obligated to fund the following mission assignments: 
    • National Guard Support. National Guard personnel in all four Region 7 states continue to support state-level COVID-19 efforts after President Trump authorized the special assistance in mid-April.  Guard members have been working under Title 32, an action which means that the federal government pays 100 percent of the National Guard costs for a maximum of 30 days, saving money that the states would ordinarily have to pay. The action does not federalize command of activated National Guard personnel.  Rather, each state’s governor directs and controls the Guard’s COVID-19-related work in coordination with the U.S. Department of Defense.  As of Sept. 11, FEMA has paid more than $122.2 million to support these efforts in all four states. The federal support for the National Guard personnel supporting COVID-19 efforts has been extended through Dec. 31, 2020.
    • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was deployed for technical assistance to assess potential Alternate Care Sites (ACS) in all four states to augment hospital capacity.  One site was built out in north St. Louis County in just four short days and was operational on April 14.  The last patient left the site in early June after the State of Missouri and St. Louis health facilities determined the COVID patient load again was within the hospitals’ capabilities.
    • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) helped to secure medical supplies and continues to provide technical expertise to the states and tribes related to COVID-19 issues.  Twelve staff members from HHS Region 7 and multiple components including ASPR Regional Emergency Coordinators, ASPR Regional Medical Countermeasure Advisors, an ASPR Hospital Preparedness Program Field Project Officer, and Local U.S. Public Health Services Officers from a Regional Incident Support Team were part of this support. 
    • The Department of Defense provided support to the Title 32 National Guard deployments.
    • The U.S. Department of Agriculture assisted with COVID-related food supply issues and animal depopulation because of meat-processing plant limitations.
    • The Veterans Health Administration is funding the use of up to 20 beds at Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities and paying for extra nursing care at a veterans’ facility in Iowa.  In Kansas, the Veterans Health Administration provided 8 high-acuity mechanical ventilators for COVID-19 patients. In Missouri, more than 13 personnel are helping to provide medical surge capacity at a VA facility in Cape Girardeau. 
    • The U.S. Department of Justice provided support to local and state law enforcement for COVID-related efforts. 
    • The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) supported FEMA Region 7 with ongoing assessments of critical infrastructure and with the private-sector task force.
  • Experts from HHS are leading vaccine development, while experts from the Department of Defense are partnering with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other parts of HHS to coordinate supply, production and distribution of vaccines.  HHS and CDC are working with Region 7 states to develop distribution plans, focused on logistics and identification of priority groups.
  • FEMA regional recovery staff have been working with the states and tribal nations to help reimburse eligible costs for emergency protective measures that are associated with COVID-19 response efforts.
  • As of September 17, more than $239 million has been obligated to pay for these measures. The funding comes from FEMA’s Public Assistance Grant Program (PA).   
    • The PA Program provides grants to state and local governments, tribal nations and certain non-profit entities to assist with eligible costs associated with responding to and recovering from disasters. 
    • For the COVID-19 declaration, this includes reimbursement for such things as buying medical supplies, establishing temporary medical facilities used to treat patients, and some labor costs for temporary medical personnel.
    • The federal funding is provided at a 75-percent federal cost share.  The remaining 25 percent is paid by the grant recipient, generally a state government, a local government, tribal nation or qualified nonprofit organization. 
    • To date, there are 1,791 eligible entities applying for PA grants among the four states and the tribal nations.
    • PA funding will continue in the coming weeks and months for eligible projects as reimbursement requests are submitted to FEMA. 
  • FEMA regional recovery staff also has been working with each state to process requests for funding to support Crisis Counseling assistance and the Lost Wages program that extends federal contributions for unemployment payments.
    • As of September 17, FEMA has awarded more than $18.3 million in grants to the states of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska through its Crisis Counseling Program (CCP) to support mental health services associated with COVID-19.
    • CCP assists individuals and communities with recovering from the psychological effects of natural and human-caused disasters through community-based outreach and educational services. Services are provided at no cost and include supportive crisis counseling, education, development of coping skills, and linkage to appropriate resources.
    • The Crisis Counseling Program was added April 30 to the federal assistance authorized as part of federal disaster declarations for all four Region 7 states.
  • Lost Wages: On Aug. 8, 2020, President Trump made available up to $44 billion from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund to provide financial assistance to Americans who have lost wages due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To gain the assistance, states had to make a request for the funding. Initial grants to states represented three weeks’ worth of payments (at $300 per eligible person); subsequent funding is granted one week at a time until the $44 billion allocation has been expended.

By the Numbers:

Here’s a breakdown of the major federal funding in support of COVID-19 operations in the FEMA Region 7 states and tribal nations.  All figures are as of Sept. 17, 2020 unless otherwise indicated. 

FEMA:

  • Public Assistance Grant Program: $239 million
  • Individual Assistance Program: $808.5 million
    • Crisis Counseling: $18.3 million
    • Lost Wages program:  $790.2 million
    • Note: Figures as of Sept. 18, 2020
  • Mission Assignments: $133 million
    • Note: Figure includes Title 32 Support for the National Guard
  • Assistance to states for survivor supplies: $1.7 million
  • Grand Total: $1,182,193,220
    • Note:  Total as of Sept. 18, 2020

State-by-State Recap of FEMA Funding:

Note:  Figures represent obligated dollars.  Numbers are rounded to nearest $100K.

State/Tribal Nation          Public Assistance              Crisis Counseling              Lost Wages               Mission Assignments

Iowa    $128.4 million     $5.2 million    $216 million    $35.5 million

Kansas $31.5 million       $217,825        $117 million   $25 million

Missouri $16.7 million      $11.4 million   $366.8 million   $55.4 million

Nebraska $62.6 million     $1.5 million     $90.4 million    $17.4 million

Ponca Tribe of Nebraska  $1,400.00

*Note:  The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska is choosing to use CARES Act funding first before applying for assistance from FEMA. 

Emergency Management Performance Grant-Supplemental (EMPG-S)

  • This grant program assists states, local governments, tribal nations and territorial governments with their public health and emergency management activities that support the prevention of, preparation for, and response to the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency. The following awards have been made:
    • Iowa:         $1,320,520
    • Kansas:     $1,276,804
    • Missouri:   $1,859,809
    • Nebraska:  $1,099,792

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS): 

HHS has provided funding to all Region 7 states under various programs including: emergency supplemental appropriation funding provided in the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act), and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. Here’s a look at what has been provided:

  • Iowa: $226.37 million
  • Kansas: $204.16 million
  • Missouri: $400.43 million
  • Nebraska: $174.12 million

 

COVID-19 Information Resources

State of Missouri:

Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services: COVID-19 Resources

Federal Government

COVID-19 Resources from The White House, CDC and FEMA: www.coronavirus.gov.

USA.gov 

FEMA

Learn about a variety of resources at: www.fema.gov/coronavirus

Information on this page includes:

  • News and Media Gallery
  • Resources for patients and healthcare workers
  • FEMA financial reimbursements for state, local and tribal governments
  • Federal Recovery Resource List
  • Understanding data and prioritizing resources
  • How to help the COVID-19 effort
  • Rumor Control
  • Best Practices

FEMA Disaster Financial Management Guide: Get help to navigate financial complexities associated with COVID-19:  FEMA Disaster Financial Management Guide

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)/Center for Disease Control (CDC)

Indian Health Service (IHS)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)

  • SBA is offering designated states and territories low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Find more info here:  SBA COVID-19 Assistance

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

  • USDA’s The COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide provides a one-stop shop of federal programs that can be used by rural communities, organizations and individuals impacted by COVID-19.  The downloadable guide is a first-of-its-kind resource for rural leaders looking for federal funding and partnership opportunities to help address the pandemic.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

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