President Trump speaking from the Rose Garden declared a national emergency under the Stafford Act which opens $50 billion in funding to increase resources to states and health facilities in response to the growing coronavirus pandemic.
The announcement comes as major events have been called off and schools across the country have closed amid efforts to slow down the transmission of the virus.
The Robert T. Stafford Disaster and Emergency Assistance Act allows the White House to mobilize the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide disaster relief funding to state and local governments in order to support their response to the pandemic. and direct federal aid to states hit by disasters and health crises.
In part, the act says:
a) The Congress hereby finds and declares that –
(1) because disasters often cause loss of life, human suffering, loss of income, and property loss and damage; and
(2) because disasters often disrupt the normal functioning of governments and communities, and adversely affect individuals and families with great severity; special measures, designed to assist the efforts of the affected States in expediting the rendering of aid, assistance, and emergency services, and the reconstruction and rehabilitation of devastated areas, are necessary.
(b) It is the intent of the Congress, by this Act, to provide an orderly and continuing means of assistance by the Federal Government to State and local governments in carrying out their responsibilities to alleviate the suffering and damage which result from such disasters by –
(1) revising and broadening the scope of existing disaster relief programs;
(2) encouraging the development of comprehensive disaster preparedness and assistance plans, programs, capabilities, and organizations by the States and by local governments;
(3) achieving greater coordination and responsiveness of disaster preparedness and relief programs;
(4) encouraging individuals, States, and local governments to protect themselves by obtaining insurance coverage to supplement or replace governmental assistance;
(5) encouraging hazard mitigation measures to reduce losses from disasters, including development of land use and construction regulations; and
(6) providing Federal assistance programs for both public and private losses sustained in disasters[.]
“Our overriding goal is to stop the spread of the virus,” President Trump said.
Trump is urging states to set up emergency centers and urging hospitals to set up emergency preparedness immediately.
Under the declaration, Health and Human Secretary Azar is to waive provisions of laws and regulations to give doctors and hospitals “maximum flexibility to respond to the virus.
Under the declaration, Azar can:
- Waive laws to enable telehealth services
- Allow remote doctor visits and hospital check-ins
- Waive certain federal licensing requirements so doctors from other states can provide services
- Waive requirements limiting hospitals to 25 beds or a stay or 96 hours
- Allowing hospitals to bring additional physicians on board and obtain additional office space
- Waive rules that restrict hospital care of patients within the hospital itself
Trump also announced plans to partner with pharmaceutical and retail companies to set up drive-through coronavirus test sites in an effort to catch up to a nationwide demand and access to testing.
“The goal is for individuals to drive up and be swabbed without having to leave your car,” said Trump.
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