Navigating FEMA’s COVID-19 Appeals Process

The FEMA deadline for submitting COVID-19-related costs for final determination is December 31, 2022. As FEMA completes reviews and renders decisions on approvals, many applicants may see notices of denials of costs due to one or multiple eligibility issues.

The pandemic as a nationwide disaster event has presented many issues for applicants, including hospitals, housing authorities, and other community non-profit organizations. The pandemic also created challenges for FEMA as the agency designated to coordinate response.
Many of the aforementioned entities have never encountered FEMA’s Public Assistance (PA) Program, and, likewise, FEMA has not dealt with a nationwide biological event that requires an understanding of medical facilities and other community agency operations. These types of operations can be quite different from the more typical facilities and structures that FEMA is accustomed to handling after severe weather events.
FEMA’s only major obligated biological event since 2003 is COVID-19.  As biological events do not regularly result in disaster declarations, there is opportunity to reduce delays in the approval process by   providing detailed explanation costs and why they are necessary. Many large claims have required more than what could be considered an acceptable amount of time for review and reimbursement.
However, nonprofit hospitals and medical facilities have the advantage of being the experts on their costs and operations and can impart this information productively to FEMA, thereby helping to facilitate a quicker review and reimbursement period.

Deadlines and timelines

Let’s look at appeals. FEMA sent your organization a Determination Memorandum (DM), denying reimbursement of specific labor, material, contract or other costs items in your project. Additionally, prior discussions with your FEMA Program Delivery Manager(PDMG) have not been productive. 

What are your options? Federal regulations provide you with two opportunities  for reconsideration once you receive a DM:

  • Write an appeal letter through your state within 60 days of receipt
    • FEMA can take up to 90 days to consider the appeal
    • Decision is made by the FEMA Regional Administrator
  • Write a second appeal if the first was denied, within 60 days of receipt of the first decision.  
    • Decision by the Assistant Administrator for Recovery at FEMA Headquarters
    • Appellant needs to check the FEMA PA Second Appeals Tracker for status
  • Appeals must contain clear, documented justification supporting your agency’s position, including:
    • The amount in dispute (as applicable), and  
    • Citations to relevant statutes, regulations, or policies with which the applicant believes FEMA’s determination was inconsistent.

Applicants that submit detailed costs with clear documentation have a higher likelihood of obtaining approval. Here are helpful FEMA links with more specific information:


About the Author

Jim serves as Director in BDO’s Community Resilience Advisory Services where he advises states, territories, tribes, and community-based organizations how to anticipate, prepare for, respond to, and adapt to incremental change and sudden disruptions so they can continue to provide critical services. He previously worked with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (OIG) where he led audits of disaster assistance grants pursuant to the Stafford Act in accordance with GAGAS for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Public Assistance (PA) and Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) recipients and sub-recipients in Louisiana, Indiana, and New Mexico. Jim’s key published audit reports include the Louisiana Superdome Sheltering and Repair Activities, and the Management of Hazard Mitigation Funds for the State of Louisiana after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.