Pappas co-sponsoring legislation to aid to return FEMA assistance to Manchester schools

Congressman Chris Pappas on Aug. 4, 2020. Credit/Andrew Sylvia

WASHINGTON – On Thursday, Congressman Chris Pappas (D-NH) announced that he has co-sponsored legislation that would reverse a recent decision by FEMA to halt reimbursements for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other COVID-related responses by local governments for public schools such as the Manchester School District, as well as other local government entities.

On Monday, the Manchester Board of School Committee unanimously approved to send a letter to New Hampshire Congressional Delegation on Monday after learning the expected funding would no longer be available.

Assistant Superintendent Karen DeFrancis learned of the news on Friday afternoon, stating that she had expected a 75 percent reimbursement for PPE items already purchased by the Manchester School District to prepare for the school year.

DeFrancis said that cost of that PPE, approximately $10.9 million will now instead have to come either from CARES Act funding, a recent $1.3 million bond approved by the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen, deferred maintenance expense funding or from the school district’s general fund.

“We were a little surprised at that afternoon,” said DeFrancis earlier this week.

Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig said she had also reached out to State Senator Lou D’Allesandro (D-Manchester) to assist Manchester and other school districts from the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery (GOEFFER) as well.

Introduced by U.S. House Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), the legislation if passed would increase the FEMA reimbursement rate from 75 percent to 90 percent for non-COVID related requests and 100 percent for all COVID requests.

“As students and teachers begin to go back to school this fall, we have no more important obligation than to ensure they can do so safely and with the supplies and resources they need to clean their classrooms and prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Pappas. “It is alarming and deeply troubling that FEMA would change course so suddenly to end its reimbursements to local governments for PPE and other essential COVID-19 expenses – essentially leaving our cities and towns to fend for themselves. This legislation I co-sponsored would correct that wrong and also ease the overall financial burden on state and local government as they deal with unprecedented revenue shortfalls and increased COVID-19 expenses.”

Craig welcomed the news from Pappas’ office on Thursday afternoon.

“Ensuring the health and safety of our residents, employees and visitors is our top priority during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why we’ve made significant investments in ordering PPE, cleaning supplies and more. With the recent decision to halt reimbursements for PPE, our school district is left paying $2.2 million in expenses, costs they were told would be covered by FEMA,” said Craig. “I want to thank Congressman Pappas for co-sponsoring this important legislation. Together, we must do whatever we can to ensure our schools are stocked with enough PPE and cleaning supplies to keep our students, educators and staff safe.”