Law and Justice COVID-19 Briefing


coronavirus briefing ncsl

NCSL COVID-19 National Emergency Briefing

The following is a summary of a briefing to the Law Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee and NCSL’s Public Private Partnership on Disaster Mitigation and Recovery on April 1, 2020. A recording of the briefing can be found at the bottom of the page.

To date, President Donald Trump has activated emergency powers under four separate statutes for the COVID-19 response.

Trump declared a public health emergency under the Public Health Service Act on Jan. 31, issued two national emergency declarations under both the Stafford Act and the National Emergencies Act (NEA) on March 13, and invoked emergency powers via executive order under the Defense Production Act on March 18. On March 19, Trump named the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as the lead agency in the COVID-19 emergency response efforts, a designation previously held by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

These actions have varying implications but collectively allow the federal government to deliver critical financial assistance and flexibilities for state and local response efforts by state emergency management agencies, health agencies, governors’ offices and others.

Briefing Highlights

Overview: CARES Act and Stimulus Package

From the $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) for states, $3 billion is set aside for Washington, D.C., and the U.S. territories and $8 billion is set aside for tribes. State estimates can be found here.

CRF money will go directly into your states’ general fund around April 24. If your state has local governments with populations over 500,000, 45% of the state’s allocation is set aside for these localities. These local governments must make a request directly to the Treasury Department for those funds. If your state does not have any local governments with over 500,000 people, your state will get its entire share and it will be at the discretion of your state to decide any local government allocations.

This money is to be used for state expenditures and costs related to coronavirus through Dec. 30, 2020, and cannot be used to backfill revenue gaps you have experienced as a result of the virus. The Treasury Department has suggested that the 6.2% increase in FMAP funds in the Families First Act, which is the second stimulus bill, presents states with some flexibility with respect to loss of revenue. We continue to work with the Treasury Department to address this issue. We are also working with members of Congress as a fourth stimulus bill is taking shape and state revenue loss is our primary concern.

Other federal funds in the CARES Act include:

  • $45 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund.
  • $400 million in election security grants. We are hearing that a few states are going to use their share of the funding to conduct vote-by-mail in November.
  • $850 million in Byrne/JAG formula grants for law enforcement. Important note: 60% of total Byrne JAG funds are allocated to the state administering agency which in turn passes a designated percentage through to local governments and, through them, to other organizations, including nonprofit service providers. The remaining 40% goes directly from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance to local criminal justice agencies including law enforcement.
  • $2 million for justice information sharing technology to promote videoconferencing abilities for prison health care and court proceedings.
  • The deadline for Real ID compliance has been extended by a year to Oct. 1, 2021.

In total across the three bills—stimulus one, two and three—some 60 programs have funds available for states so this will take some time to roll out. Read more information on the CARES Act.

Overview: COVID-19 National Emergency Declarations and Emergency Powers

The COVID-19 National Emergency Declaration:

  • Section 501(b) of the Stafford Act allows the federal government to declare an emergency without a governor’s request when the primary responsibility for the emergency rests with the federal government.
  • Limits available FEMA recovery funding to emergency protective measures under Public Assistance grants—or "Category B" measures.
  • Limits available FEMA recovery funding to emergency protective measures under Public Assistance grants—or Category B measures.
  • Does not authorize funding under FEMA Individual Assistance grants or (406) Hazard Mitigation grants under Public Assistance.
  • Provides access to $7 billion in low-interest, long-term Economic Injury Disaster Loans to qualifying small businesses to assist economic recovery under the Small Business Administration (SBA). EIDL applicants can apply online as of April 3. The CARES Act creates the new EIDL Emergency Advance and Express Bridge Loans.
    • EIDL applicants are automatically considered for up to $10,000 in grants as an advance to their loan.
    • Small businesses who currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender are eligible for up to $25,000 in more immediate loans via a participating lender while they await EIDL application approval.  
    • For details, see NCSL’s Small Business Disaster Assistance Brief.
  • In order to access any additional forms of funding under the Stafford Act, states must submit a separate major disaster declaration request.
  • Major Disaster Declarations:
    • As of April 1, FEMA had approved 34 states and territories for major disaster declarations:
      • Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, DC, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, US Virgin Islands, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
    • As of April 1, six states and territories had requested major disaster declarations:
      • Arkansas, Mariana Islands, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire and West Virginia.
    • These numbers are changing every day. For current information on states that have been approved or have requested and are awaiting approval, see FEMA’s disaster declarations webpage.
    • FEMA continues to limit additional funding awarded under major disaster declarations to crisis counseling, out of concern for duplicating benefits provided via Congressional action over the last few weeks (FEMA cannot provide assistance for a need that is otherwise met by a separate federal funding stream). This may change as FEMA tracks how that funding is being implemented and what unmet needs remain.
  • PowerPoint | COVID-19 Update: A National Emergency

NCSL COVID-19 National Emergency Briefing


Additional Resources