Stafford Act COVID-19 Emergency Declaration Activates FEMA’s Public Assistance Program

Due to the worsening COVID-19 crisis, President Trump declared a national emergency on March 13. In doing so, the president declared an emergency under two separate laws. The first declaration – made under the National Emergencies Act - triggers emergency authority to waive federal requirements like those found in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The second declaration – made under the Stafford Act – allows FEMA to utilize its Disaster Relief Fund to assist in combatting the pandemic.

A Declaration of an Emergency under the Stafford Act is not equivalent to a Major Disaster Declaration that is generally made after major natural disasters. The Declaration of an Emergency permits FEMA to use Direct Federal Assistance (DFA) and activate the Emergency Protective Measures (Category 2) of the agency’s Public Assistance (PA) Program. The program permits state and local governments, as well as qualifying nonprofits, to receive funding for eligible Emergency Protective Measures being taken to address the pandemic. Because the emergency declared was national in scope, individual requests for disaster declarations by state or territorial governors are not needed to access this funding.

The PA program application period typically lasts for 30 days. The funding will be provided at the regular 75% federal cost share. FEMA will not duplicate any assistance provided by the Department of Health and Human Services or the Centers for Disease Control. There are a range of eligible activities available under Category 2, ranging from the purchase and distribution of food and medical supplies to the medical sheltering of infected patients. For more information on eligible uses please see this fact sheet from NLIHC.

Read FEMA’s Public Assistance Program/COVID-19 Fact Sheet at:

Read NLIHC’s Fact Sheet on Activity and Nonprofit Eligibility at: