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Evers Asks FEMA To Rescind New Rules On PPE

Federal Policy Change Would Restrict Money For Cleaning, Personal Protective Equipment

Boxes of personal protective equipment
Boxes of personal protective equipment delivered to the Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center are stacked near the front door in San Antonio, Wednesday, April 8, 2020. More than 70 residents and staff have tested positive for COVID-19 at the facility. Eric Gay/AP Photo

Gov. Tony Evers is asking officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reconsider new regulations that would restrict funds for personal protective equipment to healthcare workers and first responders, leaving states to come up with money for disinfecting and providing masks for courthouses, prisons and schools.

“These new limitations, if implemented, would require our state to revise its disaster response strategy midstream. For the many expenditures for which the state was counting on FEMA support that would no longer be eligible under the Sept. 1 guidance, the state will need to either divert resources from other response programs to pay for them or forgo them altogether. Either way, the state’s COVID-19 response efforts will suffer at a critical time,” the Sept. 4 letter from Evers stated in reference to FEMA’s Public Assistance Program.

Wisconsin continues to see high levels of COVID-19 cases. Many K-12 schools around the state have reopened for in-person classes but other districts, like Madison and Milwaukee have not, instead offering virtual instruction.

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President Donald Trump has called for schools across the country to reopen, but new rules starting Sept. 15 would not reimburse states for COVID-19 costs in nonemergency settings.

“It seems to me to be shortsighted to, on the one hand, say that schools should reopen in person, but on the other hand pulling support out from under those schools trying to follow all the safety protocols to make sure students can return safely,” said Wisconsin Association of School Boards government relations director Dan Rossmiller.

There was money for schools in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump. But not all schools in Wisconsin were eligible, said Rossmiller. He said safety was one of the key concerns in whether and how to reopen schools.

Under the new FEMA guidelines, funding for eligible PPE expenses will be limited to a 60-day supply. The federal agency plans to provide PPE, including cloth face masks, for medical care, some medical sheltering, mass casualty management and other settings.