The Senate approved more than $163 billion designated to assist local fire and EMS departments as part of an economic stimulus package to safeguard the U.S. economy and help the nation respond effectively to the 2019 novel coronavirus and its resulting illness, COVID-19. The House is expected to pass the $2 trillion stimulus bill on Friday.
This bill includes multiple funding streams to reimburse fire and EMS departments for the costs of their operations:
- $100 billion for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund to reimburse eligible healthcare providers for healthcare expenses or lost revenue directly attributable to the coronavirus. Funding could go to public entities; providers enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid, and other for-profit and nonprofit entities that provide diagnoses, testing, or care for individuals with COVID-19. The IAFC will follow up with the HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response to ensure fire departments can apply for these funds.
- $45 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund to reimburse activities such as medical response, procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE), National Guard deployment, coordination of logistics, implementation of safety measures, and provision of community services. According to FEMA, these funds will cover overtime and backfill costs; the costs of supplies such as disinfectants, medical supplies, and personal protective equipment; and apparatus usage. (The federal government will cover 75% of these costs.) The IAFC recommends that fire chiefs consult the guidance from Chief Keith Bryant, the U.S. Fire Administrator, and FEMA's new fact sheet on FEMA's Simplified Public Assistance Application. In addition, they should consult with their state emergency managers to begin the process of being reimbursed.
- $100 million for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program for PPE, supplies, and reimbursements. This funding is specific to COVID-19 PPE, supplies, etc. The IAFC has contacted FEMA to ask when this special application period will take place.
- $100 million for Emergency Management Performance grants for emergency preparedness. This grant program is run by FEMA. The IAFC will provide more information in the future about applying for these grants.
- $7 million for the U.S. Forest Service's Wildland Fire Management account to provide PPE and baseline testing for wildland firefighters. This funding will be spent at the discretion of the chief of the Forest Service, and it is expected to be used for USDA's wildland firefighting operations.
The bill also attempts to address the shortage of needed emergency supplies:
- $16 billion to replenish the Strategic National Stockpile supplies of PPE and drugs.
- $1 billion for the Defense Production Act to improve the national supply chain and improve the production of PPE, ventilators, and other needed equipment, and funding for federal, state, and local agencies to purchase this equipment.
- $1.5 billion for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's State and Local Preparedness Grant.
- Addresses drug shortages by allowing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to prioritize and expedite the review of drug applications and inspections to prevent or mitigate drug shortages. The legislation also requires drug manufacturers to share information on their drug volume and report when there is a supply interruption due to shortages of the active pharmaceutical ingredient.
Additionally, the bill addresses life-safety priorities:
- Allows fire sprinkler retrofit installations in commercial buildings to qualify for bonus depreciation through 2027 as well as a 15-year depreciation period in perpetuity after 2027.
The IAFC will continue to work to ensure that fire departments get the equipment and supplies needed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.