COVID-19 and the US Repatriation Program
Audience: State Emergency Repatriation Coordinators (SERC)
COVID-19 Repatriation Response
The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is coordinating closely with the Department of State (DOS), following DOS' March 19, 2020 Global Level 4 Health Advisory to American citizens living, traveling, and working overseas.
Over the past few days, several flights of American citizens departing countries with low numbers of confirmed cases of novel coronavirus have returned to the U.S. on both commercial flights and flights chartered by DOS. We anticipate additional flights over the coming weeks.
ACF has not activated the National Emergency Repatriation Plan and it has not activated any states or their state emergency repatriation plans.
ACF does not recommend that states establish emergency repatriation centers. Rather, ACF and its grantee ISS-USA are working to support returning American citizens with onward travel, if needed.
American citizens who are determined to be eligible for temporary assistance under the U.S. Repatriation Program will be assisted by ISS-USA. American Citizens who would like to inquire about eligibility may email USCitzReturn@iss-usa.org or call 1-800-458-6124.
Q1: What is the U.S. Repatriation Program?
A1. The U.S. Repatriation Program was established in 1935 under Section 1113 of the Social Security Act to provide temporary assistance to private U.S. citizens and their dependents identified by the Department of State (DOS) as having returned from a foreign country to the United States because of destitution, illness, war, threat of war, or a similar crisis, and are without available resources.
Q2: Who administers this program?
A2: The Office of Human Services Emergency Preparedness and Response (OHSEPR) within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the domestic lead for the U.S. Repatriation Program.
Q3: Who is eligible for this program?
A3: Eligible repatriates are U.S. citizens or their dependents identified by DOS as having returned or been brought from a foreign country to the United States due to destitution, illness, war, the threat of war or similar crisis, and do not have resources immediately accessible.
Q4: What services are available to eligible U.S. citizens and their dependents upon arrival in the United States?
A4: Temporary assistance is defined by Section 1113 of the Social Security Act as money payments, medical care, temporary billeting (e.g., public shelter), transportation, and other goods and services necessary for the health or welfare of individuals (including guidance, counseling, and other welfare services) provided to eligible repatriates within the United States.
Q5: What role do states play during an emergency repatriation incident?
A5: When activated by OHSEPR for an emergency repatriation incident, a state will execute its state emergency repatriation plan (SERP) to provide temporary assistance to returning eligible citizens at designated ports of entry.
Q6: How does ACF identify ports of entry?
A6: ACF considers various factors specific to the incident when selecting ports of entry. When ACF selects a port of entry, ACF will notify states via established processes.
Q7: When will OHSEPR provide information to activated states regarding the number of private U.S. citizens and dependents evacuated by DOS for a specific incident?
A7: OHSEPR will provide information to the activated state as it becomes available.
Emergency Incident Reimbursement
Q8: What costs for emergency repatriation are reimbursable?
A8: ACF determines which costs are reasonable, allowable, and allocable and will provide reimbursement contingent upon the availability of funds. Any state activities in preparation for activating a SERP are not reimbursable unless specifically authorized by OHSEPR.
Q9: How are states reimbursed for emergency repatriation activities?
A9: OHSEPR will provide information regarding the reimbursement process after a state is activated. Emergency repatriation operations are non-Stafford Act incidents. See here for FEMA’s definition and application of Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (as amended August 2016).
Q10: Where can I find information that can be shared with state government officials?
A10: Please review OHSEPR’s website for the most current information available. Public messaging will be shared via Twitter @ACF_OHSEPR and @ACFHHS. Additionally, monitor the Department of State website for any information related to potential evacuations of private U.S. citizens and their dependents.
Q11: Where can I find the most updated repatriation forms and guidance?
A11: Repatriation forms and guidance can be found in the OHSEPR Resources library. OHSEPR is currently updating the national guidance for emergency repatriation; however, SERCs may email the OHSEPR-WatchDesk@acf.hhs.gov to request a copy of the 2016 National Emergency Repatriation Plan (NERP) and 2016 National Emergency Repatriation Plan Operational Guide (NERPOG).
Q12: Is technical assistance be available to states to discuss program questions?
A12: ACF will provide technical assistance and support. For additional assistance, please contact OHSEPR-WatchDesk@acf.hhs.gov.
Q13: I have a relative or loved one overseas, how can they receive assistance in returning home?
A13: The Department of State maintains updated information on travel advisories and overseas US embassy operations. Please check the State Department's Travel Advisories page for specific country information.