WASHINGTON – In a first-of-its kind move, President Trump late Friday declared an entire state a disaster area because of a pandemic – and that state is New York.
Trump's move should free up millions – if not billions – in federal aid to the state with the most number of Covid-19 cases. The money can cover everything from protective measures and supplies aimed at controlling the coronavirus pandemic to crisis counseling for those traumatized by its effects.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, both Democrats, sent a letter to Trump earlier this week calling on him to issue the disaster declaration. Late Friday, both senators lauded the president's move.
“With more and more cases confirmed in New York each day, it’s imperative that the federal government does everything within its power to support New York in the state effort to stem the spread of the deadly coronavirus,” said Schumer. “We’re at a vital point in the battle against the disease, and we need to do everything in our power to stop it, right here, right now."
Gillibrand agreed, saying: “Approving the Major Disaster Declaration was an essential step in our fight against coronavirus. All federal resources available must be used to help New York respond to the coronavirus outbreak. I’m glad the administration is taking the health and safety of New Yorkers seriously by releasing additional funding to help our state respond.”
Under Trump's order, the state will have access to a share of the federal $42.6 billion Disaster Relief Fund, which is typically used in response to hurricanes and other natural disasters.
Federal funding is available to not only the state, but eligible local and tribal governments for emergency protective measures. Some nonprofit organizations will qualify for the aid as well.
In addition, Trump's move means federal money can cover a wide variety of expenses aimed at aiding individuals affected by the crisis, including unemployment benefits, temporary housing and nutrition aid. The federal government will pay 75% of expenses under the program, while the state will pay a 25% match.
While the vast majority of the state's Covid-19 cases are concentrated downstate, any part of the state affected by the pandemic can qualify for funds.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency will coordinate the effort.
"There is no compromise when it comes to the health and lives of New Yorkers, and I’m glad the administration recognized that and approved the nation’s first Major Disaster Declaration in response to the coronavirus, right here in New York," Schumer said.