Municipalities and their private sector partners will experience high costs, especially in residential collections to cover all of the costs incurred as workers transition to working from home. FEMA can help protect public health and safety by committing to cover the costs of essential services provided that aren’t paid by the service recipients.
The National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA), and the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) have both sent letters to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Peter Gaynor requesting that the agency establish a system to compensate the waste and recycling industry for providing services to protect public health and safety that otherwise would go unpaid during the COVID-19 outbreak.
NWRA says it also shared copies of the letter with Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the nation’s COVID-19 response task force, and the House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery, which has oversight of FEMA.
Solid waste management is identified as an essential critical infrastructure workforce in the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) March 19, 2020 memo, and has been listed as essential in every emergency order issued at the state level in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in city and county responses as well.
“Providing these essential services to those unable to pay as a result of economic hardships caused by COVID-19 while continuing to employ the workforce needed to support such an effort will require assistance,” NWRA President and CEO Darrell Smith writes in the NWRA letter.
“Since both the public and private sectors collect and manage solid waste and recyclables, SWANA’s letter asserts that all sanitation departments, haulers, and post-collection companies providing services during the COVID-19 pandemic without being paid for them should be eligible for reimbursement,” said SWANA Executive Director and CEO David Biderman.
Darrell Smith points out that FEMA can establish a vehicle under disaster debris management plans or by other alternative direct compensation means as selected by the agency to compensate the waste and recycling industry for providing uncompensated services to protect public health and safety during this time of national emergency.
Both NWRA and SWANA specifically ask for funding to cover services provided in the U.S. related to customer bad debt and other uncompensated costs incurred for services being provided to the public during the national emergency.