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Weekly Update: DHS Response to COVID-19

Release Date: 
September 18, 2020

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its component offices have worked diligently to serve the American people across all fronts while making health and safety precautions a top priority. As the American homeland continues to open up, DHS’s components continue to see a return to pre-COVID operations. Most recently, the Transportation Security Administration saw an uptick in travel over Labor Day Weekend.

“Passenger volume on the busiest day of the Labor Day weekend was up 30% from the busiest day of the July Fourth holiday weekend. This is an encouraging trend for the aviation sector as airports, airlines, and TSA work together to ensure a secure and safe travel experience for passengers,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “For travelers who have not flown since the beginning of the pandemic, the TSA checkpoint experience will be noticeably different as compared to last year. Passengers also play an important role in helping us ensure they safely and efficiently get through security screening at our airports while wearing masks and respecting social distancing.”

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Providing Grants to States for Supplemental Lost Wages Payments. To ease the economic burden for those struggling with lost wages due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, President Trump authorized FEMA to expend up to $44 billion from the Disaster Relief Fund for lost wage payments. As of September 14th, Administrator Gaynor has approved 49 states, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia for FEMA grants under this unprecedented program. FEMA’s grant funding will allow the approved states to provide those unemployed due to COVID-19 $300 or 400 per week on top of their regular unemployment benefit. As of September 14th, FEMA has awarded more than $35 Billion in support of Lost Wages supplemental assistance. All approved grant applicants receive an initial obligation of three weeks of funding, with additional disbursements made on a weekly basis.

Providing Full Federal Reimbursement for States’ National Guard Forces. On August 3rd, President Trump granted an extension for the use of the National Guard under Federal Title 32 orders to respond to COVID-19 until December 31, 2020. As of September 14th, 16,398 National Guard troops have activated in T-32 duty status and 239 troops have activated in State Active Duty status to help with testing and other response efforts. To date, President Trump has approved 49 National Guard requests for federal support for the use of National Guard personnel in a Title 32 duty status through December 31. For those states and territories that are approved under these criteria, FEMA executed a fully reimbursable mission assignment to the Department of Defense, including reimbursement for pay and allowances of National Guard personnel serving in a Title 32 duty status in fulfillment of the FEMA mission assignment.

Coordinating Deployment of Federal Personnel to Support States’ Efforts. FEMA continues to lead the operational coordination for the federal interagency response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of September 14th, there are over 19,831 federal personnel deployed across the country from FEMA, HHS, CDC, DoD, National Guard, and VA to support state, local, tribal and territorial COVID-19 response efforts. FEMA and our interagency partners are constantly tailoring staffing and resources across agencies, ensuring we can provide support when and where it’s needed most.

Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC)

Graduating the Next Generation Of Law Enforcement: As of September 11, nearly 2,800 officers and agents have successfully graduated and are now in the field performing work that is critical to protect the homeland since training was restarted on June 17. There are currently 2,179 students attending in-residence training at Glynco, Charleston, and Artesia training delivery points. There are an additional 82 students attending training at the Cheltenham training delivery point. Their graduation in the coming months and the continual influx of new students ensures that our federal law enforcement partners receive the trained personnel they need to help keep our nation secure.

Science and Technology (S&T)

Driving Evidence-Based Policymaking. On September 9, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate updated its Master Question List (MQL), and does so weekly, to compile available research on operationally-relevant questions to aid decision makers in the COVID-19 response. The MQL is a quick-reference guide covering what is known about the virus, what additional information is needed, and who may be working to address these fundamental questions. New entries include:

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

Keeping Americans Safe While Ensuring Continuity of U.S. Travel and Commerce. Between Sept. 6th through Sept 12th, TSA screened more than 5,046,043 passengers, who have all reached their destinations safely. TSA officers are required to wear facial protection and gloves while on duty at the checkpoint. In support of air travel and all other modes of transportation, the agency continues to follow CDC guidance to protect Americans, its workers, and the nation’s transportation system. TSA continues to promote its “Stay Healthy. Stay Secure” campaign which outlines significant airport checkpoint modifications, including new technologies that reduce or eliminate physical contact, implemented to contain the spread of COVID-19, comply with CDC guidelines, and promote healthy and secure summer travel.

Ready to Ensure Safety During the Summer Travel Period. On September 8th, TSA issued a press release announcing it had screened nearly 1 million passengers on Sept 4 as well as surpassed 3 million passengers during the Labor Day weekend. In the announcement, the agency spotlighted its push to aggressively implement self-service and touchless technologies to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. On September 9th, TSA issued a press release regarding the deployment of a new CT scanner at Eppley Airfield that allows the TSA officer to view a 3-D image that can be rotated on three axes for thorough visual image analysis by a TSA officer. Such technologies help TSA officers to clear items without having to open the bag, thus reducing physical contact with the traveler’s property. On September 10th, TSA announced the deployment of new acrylic barriers at checkpoints throughout La Guardia Airport in NYC. The acrylic barriers are part of TSA’s efforts to minimize contact between TSA officers and passengers. On September 11, TSA hosted a commemoration ceremony in honor of the victims of the 9/11 attacks. TSA Administrator David Pekoske said:

“September 11th was a traumatic day and a tragedy that continues to be felt by all Americans, including many TSA employees who were directly affected by the attacks and subsequently joined the newly-formed agency. We continue to commemorate this day to comfort each other, to strengthen our resolve and to recommit ourselves to the mission entrusted to us by our fellow Americans. We also continue to aggressively adapt and mature as an agency in the face of new challenges. The pandemic has given us a renewed urgency in our pursuit of new solutions to enhance transportation security.”

United States Coast Guard (USCG)

Monitoring Vessels that Pose a Risk to Public Health. As of September 11th, the USCG is tracking 56 cruise ships moored, at anchor, or underway in vicinity of a U.S. port, or with potential to arrive in a US port, with approximately 9,340 crewmembers. This includes an estimated 200 American Citizens crewmembers dispersed among 33 vessels. The Coast Guard is working with the CDC based on its extension of the No Sail Order for cruise ships, which permits the off-loading of crewmembers following submission of a plan to the CDC.

Reservists. As of September 11th, the USCG has recalled and deployed 429 Reservists in support of COVID-19 operations. They are activated to serve in numerous types of roles, including work in IT support, medical clinics, PPE warehouses, command centers and other incident management roles, notably assisting federal partners such as HHS, and supporting state emergency operations centers on behalf of FEMA.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Keeping the Public Safe from COVID-19-related Fraud. ICE’s Operation Stolen Promise (OSP) targets fraudulent activity stemming from the pandemic. The initiative combines ICE’s Homeland Security Investigation’s (HSI) expertise in global trade investigations, financial fraud, and cyber investigations with robust private and public partnerships to disrupt and dismantle this criminal activity and strengthen global supply-chain security. As of September 8, as part of OSP, the agency has made 83 criminal arrests, analyzed 61,424 COVID-19-related domains, seized more than $10,045,590 million in illicit proceeds, disrupted 48 instances of illicit activity, sent 1,339 leads to domestic and international field offices, executed 97 search warrants and made 1,117 COVID-19 related seizures to include prohibited test kits and pharmaceuticals, counterfeit masks and more.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Getting American Citizens Home Safe. As of September 14, 2020, CBP had referred 790,444 travelers at the 15 funneling airports to DHS CWMD for enhanced health screening. CBP also continues to collaborate on a daily basis with the Department of State (DOS) to facilitate the safe travel of American citizens currently abroad to return home. CBP also works closely with DOS and foreign consulates to review 212(f) National Interest Waiver requests.

Additional Information

Last Published Date: September 21, 2020
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