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WATERTOWN — New York state will receive early reimbursement from the federal government for COVID-19 vaccine distribution costs, with an advancement of more than $450 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday.

The money will be split between New York City and the state at large. The city will receive a little more than $202 million, while the remainder of the state will receive $264.7 million.

The advance payment represents half of the $934 million the agency has pledged to provide to the state and city combined. According to a FEMA spokesperson, the state government is expected to get a total of $529.49 million, and the city government is expected to receive a total of $404.1 million.

President Joseph R. Biden Jr. made the announcement to all U.S. governors during a National Governors Association conference call Tuesday, after issuing an executive order Jan. 21 requiring FEMA to make the funds available.

The state will receive $466.8 million in advance FEMA aid, which was obligated Tuesday, according to a FEMA press release. The payments are meant to cover 100% of costs associated with the use of the National Guard to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic through Sept. 30. National Guard troops have delivered personal protective equipment, other supplies and built field hospitals across the state throughout the pandemic.

FEMA will also reimburse states for the costs of vaccine distribution and administration not handled by their National Guard.

“This will provide funding to New York state to perform vaccines,” Gov. Cuomo said Wednesday during a press conference in the state Capitol. “It’s advancing their reimbursement ... New York state would pay out the money to do the vaccine, the federal government would then reimburse. They’re going to advance us the money rather than reimburse, which is helpful.”

States will not be reimbursed by FEMA for the cost of purchasing the vaccine itself, or the kits of equipment used to deliver the shots. Currently, vials of the vaccine are purchased by the federal government and distributed to the states. Gov. Cuomo has floated the idea of purchasing doses directly from manufacturers, although that proposition seems unlikely to move forward.

Rather, states will be paid for the supplies needed to store and administer the vaccine, transportation and security for the vials, medical and support staff salaries, personal protective equipment, cloth face masks and temperature scanners, as well as public awareness campaigns and communication regarding the vaccine.

National Guardsmen and women continue to assist as the state ramps up vaccine efforts and the construction of temporary mass vaccination distribution sites. In the north country, state-run vaccine sites are currently at SUNY Potsdam and the Plattsburgh airport.

“States are relying on the National Guard much more heavily than they normally do,” Gov. Cuomo said. “There’s a cost to using the National Guard and that cost is normally borne by the state. Deploying the National Guard can be expensive.”

The state has a projected $39 billion revenue loss over four years because of the COVID-19 pandemic, including losses of $11.5 billion in Fiscal Year 2021 and $9.8 billion in FY 2022.

The federal assistance will give the state more liberty to use the National Guard while the pandemic continues, Gov. Cuomo said.

“We don’t have to worry about the economic consequences to the state budget as much,” he added.

New York state received $135 million in direct funding to support vaccine distribution in the last round of coronavirus aid legislation passed in December.

With this recent advance payment, New York state will have taken in just under $400 million in federal support for its vaccination efforts.

New York City received $135 million directly from December’s COVID aid package, as well. With this advance payment, the city government will have taken in about $337 million for its own vaccination efforts, much of which is run separately from the state’s program.

According to Freeman Klopott, press officer for the state Division of the Budget, the state projects it will need about $1 billion to cover its vaccine distribution costs, not including local government expenses.

“Since we are only in week seven of the vaccination program, and the state has received about 1/17 of the vaccines necessary to immunize New Yorkers, actual costs are unknown,” he said in an emailed statement. “However, making vaccine costs FEMA eligible is welcome news.”

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

I write about north country politics, Jefferson County and the northern shoreline towns of Lyme, Cape Vincent, Clayton and Alexandria Bay

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