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Tony Evers asks FEMA to reconsider new limitations to emergency aid

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Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday called for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reconsider its updated and more stringent guidelines for how states can use federal emergency aid to address COVID-19.

Evers, in a letter to FEMA administrator Peter Gaynor on Friday, criticized the agency’s new guidelines for emergency aid that limit FEMA assistance for state emergency protective measures.

The new guidelines, set to take effect Sept. 15, would restrict use of FEMA public assistance for personal protective equipment to only health care workers, patients, first responders and others performing emergency work. It would limit the purchase of PPE to only a 60-day supply, and curbs disinfection costs to only places where emergency work is being performed.

Under the previous guidelines, the money could be used to cover the disinfection of public facilities and the purchase and distribution of personal protective equipment in the response against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Evers said the state used previous guidance to develop its COVID-19 response strategy, which has included acquiring and distributing PPE and disinfectants across the state to schools, prisons and other settings. In May, for example, the state announced it received 230,000 N95 respirator masks and technology to decontaminate used masks with FEMA’s help and distributed these to county and tribal emergency managers.

“These new limitations, if implemented, would require our state to revise its disaster response strategy midstream,” Evers said in the letter.

“For the many expenditures for which the state was counting on FEMA support that would no longer be eligible under the September 1 guidance, the state will need to either divert resources from other response programs to pay for them or forgo them altogether,” the letter said. “Either way, the state’s COVID-19 response efforts will suffer at a critical time.”

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