After months of delay, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to reimburse New York City’s public hospital system nearly $1 billion in 2020 for the cost of treating patients during the city’s brutal first wave of COVID-19 .
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and US Representative Richie Torres made the announcement Wednesday outside Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx, one of the city’s 11 public hospitals. The hospital is in the Congressional district of Mr. Torres.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, also in attendance, praised the work done by the public hospital system during the pandemic, calling the system “the tip of the spear”. According to state data, around 3,000 patients died of Covid-19 in the system’s hospitals between March and September 2020. He continued, “What I saw from all of you was extraordinary courage, strength, resilience, incredible commitment.”
In October 2020, the system, known as NYC Health + Hospitalrequested FEMA about $900 million to cover costs related to hiring additional staff and expanding its capacity to treat coronavirus patients. FEMA initially agreed to reimburse $260 million less than a third of the request, arguing that the remainder included costs not necessarily related to the virus. But the public hospital system, backed by lawmakers, said it was impossible to set aside specific Covid-related expenses at a time when the system was bogged down by the disease.
Mr Torres’ office said on Wednesday that after lawmakers got involved, FEMA relented and agreed to send an additional $620 million to the system.
According to Mr Torres’ office, the reimbursement will cover staffing, equipment and patient care efforts that were needed during the surge of Covid-19 cases.
FEMA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.