THE BRONX, N.Y. – When there’s a crisis, you do whatever it takes to survive and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says that’s why FEMA is there — for reimbursement. But when it came to reimbursement for NYC Health + Hospitals, he claims FEMA tried to use a loophole.
After waiting nearly one year to be paid back, FEMA has finally agreed to reimburse the city’s public hospital system for $1 billion in expenses during the COVID-19 crisis. The announcement was made on Wednesday at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln.
“We met and fought and fought, and today we are happy to announce that FEMA has relented and they’re getting the $600 million dollars!” Schumer said.
Last October, the country’s largest municipal health care system applied for $860 million in reimbursement for COVID costs, but until now, it only received a portion of that money – about $260 million.
“This hospital system stood tall,” Schumer added. “They stretched and stretched and stretched.”
Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx was one of the city’s hardest hit areas when the pandemic first took hold of the five boroughs. All 11 city hospitals expanded to full capacity to handle a rush of patients.
Schumer says FEMA tried to avoid paying the city back by using a loophole.
“The words said they get reimbursed for expanded facilities and they interpreted that to mean you had to build a new building or rent a new building when Health + Hospitals expanded their facilities from within.”
He claims FEMA said it would only reimburse for COVID facilities. Rep. Ritchie Torres, a partner of Schumer’s in this fight, said Lincoln Hospital was consumed with COVID cases.
“The bureaucratic reasoning of FEMA ignored the reality that we all saw on the ground,” Torres added. “During the peak of the pandemic, there was nothing but COVID.”
Health + Hospitals said it chose lives over pinching pennies. Gwen Dalrymple, a nurse supervisor at Lincoln Hospital, said they did their best helping to make that happen.
“It was an experience we’ll never forget and we did all that we could for the patients,” Dalrymple said. “We all came together and did what we had to do in that time of crisis.”
For the remaining roughly $120 million, Health + Hospitals is submitting for additional reimbursement and Torres’ office says FEMA has verbally agreed to pay it as well bringing the total $1 billion.