From the South Orange-Maplewood School District:
District officials announced today that $2.9 million has been received from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as a reimbursement for the District’s pandemic-related expenditures. Items that were purchased included personal protection equipment (PPE), hand sanitizer, transparent partitions, disinfectant wipes, and many more items.
“It’s no secret that school districts all over the country were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and every one of them spent significant amounts of money on various items to help fight the spread of the virus,” said Dr. Ronald Taylor, Superintendent of the School District of South Orange & Maplewood. “It took a tremendous amount of due diligence and persistence to make sure that our District did not fall through the cracks. I want to thank Business Administrator Eric Burnside, Assistant School Business Administrator Andrea DelGuercio, and everyone who worked with them in bringing these dollars back to the District.”
The district has no singular account number for pandemic expenditures. That meant that Business Office staff had to gather purchase orders from a variety of vendors. Many invoices needed to be copied by the Accounts Payable Department. Documents had to be uploaded to FEMA’s online portals, which would be followed by questions from FEMA officials verifying that the purchases were legitimate. All the while, the rules governing what purchases were legitimate could, and did, change. There were multiple meetings and phone conferences with FEMA officials. And then there was the waiting.
Taylor, Burnside, and DelGuercio all said that teamwork was the biggest factor in obtaining the reimbursement.
“It was an effort of a lot of people working outside of their regular duties,” DelGuercio said.
The reimbursement comes at a time when the District has faced tremendous inflation in the prices of many goods and services, as well as a more than 12 percent increase in the cost of health insurance for District employees.