Months into a global outbreak that has claimed the lives of thousands and had a dramatic impact on the U.S. economy, President Trump will reportedly declare the coronavirus epidemic a national emergency.
Bloomberg and NBC reported on Friday that Trump will invoke the 1988 Stafford Act to declare a national emergency this afternoon, freeing up federal aid and money to state authorities battling outbreaks around the country.
I will be having a news conference today at 3:00 P.M., The White House. Topic: CoronaVirus!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2020
The move only came after massive pressure, both from the states and from the three associations representing the country’s medical community.
States have grown increasingly desperate for the resources and support that such a declaration could bring. The declaration will allow states to request changes to their Medicaid programs only available following a Presidential emergency declaration.
It will also unlock FEMA funds and resources critical to helping states manage elements of the crisis that exceed their own capacity.
Obama FEMA administrator Craig Fugate told TPM on Wednesday that this could extend to everything from financial help to field hospitals and quarantine housing.
State officials previously told TPM that the waiver would help them divert certain patients away from hospitals and facilities — which in some cases are already overburdened dealing with the outbreak — and to other sources of health care treatment and guidance.
The declaration will also make available the $40 billion in the FEMA disaster fund.
While Trump had at first resisted taking serious action to address coronavirus — he claimed at one point it was a “hoax” that Democrats and the media were overhyping to hurt him politically — the White House has changed its approach in recent days. His Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is currently negotiating a package of health and economic proposals to deal with the fallout from the pandemic, though there is some concern that Trump would back away from signing it if it passed Congress. Trump also gave a speech from the Oval Office on Wednesday — the second of his presidency — to lay out his response to the crisis. But the speech’s general tone fell flat, and Trump introduced several inaccuracies about what his administration was planning.
Overall, health experts warn that his delay in taking significant action has already severely harmed the U.S.’ ability to contain the virus.