On September 1, 2020, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released interim policy, Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic: Work Eligible for Public Assistance 104-009-19 (Interim Policy), relating to emergency work performed on or after September 15, 2020. The Interim Policy supplants FEMA’s March 19, 2020, Eligible Emergency Protective Measures Fact Sheet and makes many changes to FEMA’s policy concerning the eligibility of work for FEMA’s Public Assistance (PA) Program reimbursement for the COVID-19 pandemic.


As a result of being labeled a public health emergency, the COVID-19 pandemic became eligible for FEMA PA funding, but only for category B emergency protective measures. Category B emergency protective measures are actions taken before, during, and following a disaster to save lives, protect public health and safety, or eliminate an immediate threat of significant damage to improve public health and property. 44 C.F.R. 206.225(a)(3). 

The PA program provides federal funding to states, territories, tribes, local governments (STTL), and certain private not-for-profit (PNP) organizations. Examples of PNPs are medical facilities, schools, and houses of worship that are engaging in protective measures as a response to the pandemic. 

In response to the fluid nature of the pandemic, FEMA has published incident-specific fact sheets and policy guidance concerning the work that is eligible for the PA Program reimbursement. Before the September 1, Interim Policy, on March 19, 2020, FEMA released a fact sheet providing guidance on eligible emergency protective measures. Some examples of the eligible emergency protective measures were:

  • Management, control, and reduction of immediate threats to public health and safety (including disinfection of eligible public facilities).
  • Emergency medical care.
  • Medical sheltering.
  • Household pet sheltering and containment actions related to household pets in accordance with CDC guidelines.
  • Purchase and distribution of food, water, ice, medicine, and other consumable supplies, as well as personal protective equipment (PPE) and hazardous material suits and movement of supplies and persons.
  • Security and law enforcement.
  • Search and rescue to locate and recover members of the population requiring assistance.
  • Reimbursement for state, tribe, territory, and/or local government force account overtime costs.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic: Work Eligible for Public Assistance

The new Interim Policy changes the guidelines for eligible work and applies to work performed on or after September 15, 2020. The policy restricts the eligibility of work, materials, and supplies that were eligible in FEMA’s prior guidelines. Here are some of the changes:

  • Disinfection

Old: FEMA’s prior policy allowed for broad reimbursement of cleaning/disinfecting costs and supplies for all eligible applicants responding to the emergency. 

New: The Interim Policy states reimbursement for costs associated with disinfection will only be available in medical care, medical sheltering, and other eligible emergency settings.

  • PPE

Old: FEMA allowed for broad reimbursement of PPE for all eligible applicants responding to the emergency.

New: Costs associated with PPE will only be eligible for reimbursement when necessary to conduct eligible emergency work.

Qualifying Emergency Protective Measures

  • Medical care, in accordance with COVID-19-specific policy or subsequent updates.
  • Purchase and distribution of food, in accordance with COVID-19-specific policy or subsequent updates.
  • Non-congregate medical sheltering, in accordance with COVID-19-specific policy or subsequent updates.
  • 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 PPE that is directly related to otherwise eligible emergency protective measures, or is provided to healthcare workers, patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection, and first responders. (Stockpiling a supply of eligible PPE is limited to a supply that is projected for up to 60 days from date of purchase, and funding for storing eligible PPE is limited to what is necessary to store a projected 60-day supply)

The new Interim Policy notes that for the above eligible measures FEMA may provide funding for the following activities in response to COVID-19 events, but only when necessary to perform the eligible work:

  • Purchasing and distributing face masks, provided to persons conducting eligible emergency work and/or in facilities where eligible emergency work is performed.
  • Temperature scanning, including the purchase and distribution of handheld temperature measuring devices and associated supplies, in facilities where eligible emergency work is performed.
  • Disinfection, in accordance with CDC guidance, in facilities where eligible work is performed, including the purchase and provision of necessary supplies and equipment, and in excess of current operating costs.
  • Acquisition and installation of temporary physical barriers, such as plexiglass barriers, in facilities where eligible emergency work is conducted.
  • Law enforcement and security.
  • Training and technical assistance specific to the declared event.
  • Reimbursement for force account overtime costs, costs related to hiring temporary employees, and contract labor costs associated with the performance of eligible emergency protective measures.
  • Movement of equipment and supplies, including transportation and storage.
  • Other work and costs delineated within COVID-19 policies referenced in the Interim Policy.


Under the new Interim Policy, PA funding should not be a funding of last resort. This is a historic change from how PA funding has previously been treated. FEMA advises that applicants should consider PA funding concurrently with other federal agency programs. Also, FEMA has stated that PA funding will not be used to cover COVID-19 tracing, and FEMA has extended the deadline for completing eligible work. FEMA has not established a new end date and will provide at least 30 days’ notice before setting the new deadline.


Remember, the new Interim Policy is not retroactive. Work that was completed before September 15, 2020, will still be governed by the policies and procedures in place then. If your work has a combination of both periods, FEMA states that applicants must keep the two periods of work separate.

Eligible applicants should review the new Interim Policy to ascertain potential PA funding eligibility. If you have questions concerning the FEMA PA program, one of our attorneys can assist you. Please do not hesitate to contact the Wladis Law Firm. We will do our best to provide you with updates and will be available to answer questions as circumstances change. We may be reached at (315) 445-1700 or by e-mailing your everyday firm contacts.