CORONAVIRUS

Here’s What The President’s Coronavirus Emergency Declaration Does

Mar 13, 2020, 1:43 PM | Updated: 1:43 pm
U.S. President Donald Trump holds a news conference about the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic i...
U.S. President Donald Trump holds a news conference about the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic in the Rose garden at the White House March 13, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump is facing a national health emergency as COVID-19 cases continue to rise and 30 people have died from the virus in the United States, according to The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

(CNN) — President Donald Trump issued a federal emergency declaration Friday afternoon over the coronavirus outbreak following a week of cancellations, suspensions and growing case numbers that unsettled Americans nationwide.

An emergency or disaster declaration from the President frees up additional money and sets the Federal Emergency Management Agency in motion.

President Trump holds press conference to discuss coronavirus

LIVE: President Trump is holding a press conference to address coronavirus concerns

Posted by KSL 5 TV on Friday, March 13, 2020

There are two types of declarations authorized by the Stafford Act, which is the statutory authority for “most federal disaster response activities“: emergency declarations and major disaster declarations.

The difference between the two — both of which unlock additional resources, like supplies and logistical help — is scope and money.

Here’s what to know about Trump’s declaration:

What does a declaration do?

A declaration puts FEMA, which is supporting the Health and Human Services Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for coronavirus response, in a position to be the coordinator.

“The center of gravity switches from HHS headquarters to FEMA,” said Daniel Kaniewski, who previously served as deputy administrator for resilience at FEMA.

More federal funds will become available, as will supplies, personnel and any other support. FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor told lawmakers Wednesday that the agency’s warehouses are stocked with commodities across the country.

When activated, FEMA can help with logistics, like the transport of residents if needed, and put up temporary medical facilities. Those resources could come from across federal agencies, from stocked warehouses and through contracts. States will likely communicate what they need and where they need it.

Steve Reaves, president of the union that represents FEMA workers, said that during the California wildfires, for example, FEMA came in, put up tents, set up command and control centers, and worked with state and local governments to track casualties.

But during other health crises — including Zika, H1N1 and SARS — FEMA maintained a supporting role to HHS and declarations were never issued, according to Michael Coen, a senior adviser for emergency management at IEM and former FEMA chief of staff during the Obama administration.

“None of those became as big of an outbreak as we’re seeing with COVID-19. But those were examples of FEMA being in support of HHS in some way, but without the use of a Stafford emergency declaration or major disaster declaration,” he said.

Washington asked for a declaration on Thursday

Requests are generally made by the governor of an affected state. States have been scrambling to sort out what they need to respond to the increasing number of coronavirus cases before they make that request. During the week, FEMA personnel fielded questions from state staff about what support the agency — which is within the Department of Homeland Security — can provide to respond to the outbreak, said Reaves.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday requested that the administration declare a national emergency.

“It is incumbent on all of us to acknowledge the gravity of this public health emergency and take the necessary actions now — not tomorrow, not next week — to slow the spread of the virus and save lives,” Inslee said in a statement Friday. “By declaring a national emergency, the federal government can provide states with direct assistance to meet our residents’ needs for health care, shelter, food and cash assistance, and more.”

Additional declarations might come later

Additional declarations might also be issued down the line, so the federal government can reimburse state and local governments for the costs incurred during an incident. For example, President Bill Clinton issued an emergency declaration in 2000 over the West Nile virus, authorizing millions of dollars in federal funds to reimburse affected local governments.

Declarations can start as one type of emergency and then change to another in order to access more resources. These declarations are separate from the national emergency Trump declared over the southern US border last year.

Why did it take so long to declare?

Earlier this week, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, in conjunction with Sens. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington state, and Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat, sent a letter asking Trump to “immediately” consider disaster declaration requests for the coronavirus.

The reason for the delay in proceeding with a request may have been because states were still assessing their resources and the federal assistance received thus far.

“It’s possible that a) the states have the resources it needs b) that the state has most of the resources it needs and the resources it doesn’t have it’s getting from HHS and the $8.3 billion,” Kaniewski, who’s now a managing director at Marsh & McLennan Companies.

“I think in the future if those — and that future can be today or a week from now or it could be never — if they require supplemental assistance beyond what they’re getting from HHS, there would be an obvious time to submit an emergency declaration request.”

New Jersey told CNN on Thursday, for example, that it hadn’t reached that point. “Due to the recent release of more than $15 (million) in HHS funding that can be used for these COVID-19 costs, the State thresholds for FEMA assistance certainly have not been met yet,” according to a statement from the governor’s office Thursday.

As the crisis evolves, states will likely continue to review their needs and the role of federal assistance.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Coronavirus

Intermountain Medical Center (KSL TV)...
Emily Ashcraft

Pandemic led to increase in rate and severity of depression, Intermountain study says

The COVID-19 pandemic had a large impact on mental health, specifically depression, an Intermountain Health study using research from thousands Utah patients found.
19 days ago
FILE PHOTO (KSL-TV)...
Emily Ashcraft

Masks no longer required at Intermountain Health facilities, 3 years after pandemic started

Intermountain Health announced wearing masks will become optional for visitors and patients beginning March 15, following an anticipated decline in respiratory illnesses.
22 days ago
woman blowing her nose on a couch...
Paul LeBlanc

New assessment on the origins of COVID-19 adds to the confusion

Three years after the start of the pandemic, researchers are beginning to look more into how COVID-19 began and its origins.
27 days ago
Flu COVID test...
Jen Christensen, CNN

FDA authorizes first at-home test for flu, Covid-19

If you've got a fever and a cough, you don't necessarily have to go to the doctor anymore to find out if it's the flu or COVID-19.
29 days ago
...
Ashley Moser

COVID long-haulers push lawmakers to approve funding for treatment research

The request for $4,000,000 would help U of U Health’s Comprehensive COVID-19 Clinic, which has seen 1,800 long COVID-19 patients since July of 2021.
1 month ago
(KSL-TV)...
Katija Stjepovic

Utah arts and cultural jobs are surging after COVID pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic pulled the curtains on most of Utah's arts and cultural jobs, but after nearly three years, they are reemerging. 
2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Close up of an offset printing machine during production...
Les Olson IT

Top 7 Reasons to Add a Production Printer to Your Business

Learn about the different digital production printers and how they can help your company save time and money.
vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Here’s What The President’s Coronavirus Emergency Declaration Does