The county officially approved a declaration of disaster emergency to respond to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, last week, and municipalities are falling in line.

Thus far, according to Huntingdon County Emergency Management Agency director Joe Thompson, two municipalities have signed the declaration, including Huntingdon Borough and West Township.

He explained that municipalities can do so if they feel they are going to have expenses related only to COVID-19.

“First, a disaster declaration is not a state of emergency,” he said. “Signing one does not assure us or anyone of receiving reimbursement for expenses. It would be a reimbursement of specific and documented expenses directly related to COVID-19.”

Thompson also explained some key points that a municipality needs to know when signing one, including the role of the emergency management coordinator (EMC).

“The EMC is to coordinate the activities of emergency response,” he said. “You may, under the declaration, hire temporary workers, rent equipment, purchase materials and supplies and ‘enter into contracts and agreements for the performance of public work required to meet the emergency.”

He, however, emphasized the point these expenses can only be related to the emergency, or in this case, the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Please be aware it does not provide funding for normal, routine day-to-day expenses and work nor guarantee reimbursement of any expenses until final guidance is issued,” said Thompson. “It may be of assistance to your volunteer fire company and ambulance service depending on what future assistance may be offered to those groups.”

Some examples of expenses could possibly be purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE) kits for your volunteer fire company and ambulance service and possibly municipal employees.

“There could be expenses directly related to establishing and operating an emergency shelter due to situations directly related to COVID-19; possible extra hours, including overtime, for municipal employees for work and tasks directly related to COVID-19,” he added.

Thompson said that municipalities need to document all expenses related to the emergency.

“You would need to completely document all expenses, pay those expenses, then when guidance is issued, and I stress we don’t know when that will be, you would submit your request, providing documentation on your expenses to be reimbursed,” he said.

If anyone has any questions regarding a declaration of disaster emergency, they are encouraged to call the EMA office at 643-6613.

Kylie can be reached at khawn@huntingdondailynews.com.

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