FEMA says it will no longer pay for face masks, other PPE for schools under new policy

Basic emergency supplies that schools and public housing rely on for COVID-19 prevention will no longer be covered by FEMA under an updated policy, according to the agency.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it is changing its policy on the personal protective equipment, or PPE, that it will pay for.

“The ‘COVID-19 Pandemic: Work Eligible for Public Assistance’ interim policy defines the framework, policy details, and requirements for determining the eligibility of work and costs under the PA Program to ensure consistent and appropriate implementation across all COVID-19 emergency and major disaster declarations,” the updated policy read.

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Many coronavirus prevention tools, including the purchasing and distribution of face masks, temperature scanning devices, disinfection supplies, and physical barriers (i.e. temporary plexiglass barriers) will be deemed “non-emergency supplies” and will only be covered for reimbursement when used specifically for emergency response, according to FEMA.

“Normal operation of schools and other public facilities are not emergency protective measures, so FEMA would not provide funding for these activities in these circumstances,” FEMA told FOX TV Stations. “States, territories, and tribes can seek funding through other sources if choosing to provide items that are not eligible for funding through FEMA’s PA program,” FEMA said.

What this means is that most coronavirus equipment will only be covered if it is deemed a direct emergency protective measure in COVID-19-declared events, according to FEMA.

“Our partners at the Dept. of Health and Human Services are working to support safe school reopening for students, teachers, and staff. HHS will be providing up to 125 million cloth masks to states for distribution to schools,” FEMA said.

Fox TV Stations reached out to HHS. "To support the Administration’s effort to safely reopen schools for students, teachers, and staff, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will provide up to 125 million cloth face masks to states and territories for distribution to schools," a spokesperson with HHS said. "These masks will be allocated according to the share of students from low-income families in each state or territory."

HHS said the cloth face masks will be distributed in two shipments, starting in early September 2020.

The cloth face masks will be distributed in two shipments, starting in early September 2020, and the schools will receive the masks at no cost.

FEMA said it will still provide PPE for some assistance including medical care, purchase and distribution of food, some medical sheltering, emergency operation centers, and mass casualty management.

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FEMA’s updated policy was released as a part of President Donald Trump’s original March 13 nationwide emergency declaration and subsequent major disaster declarations for COVID-19.

Financial assistance under FEMA’s updated policy is applicable to eligible applicants only and is exclusive to emergency and major disaster declarations for the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the agency.

The interim policy comes as schools across the country struggle with the decision to reopen effectively and safely. Schools must now add items to their budgets and school lists that they wouldn’t usually add, including hand sanitizer and other safety supplies.

This policy goes into effect on Sept. 15.