President Donald Trump declared Wednesday that a ‘major disaster’ exists in Florida, approving a disaster declaration issued by Governor Ron DeSantis two days ago.
The action gives the federal government more leeway, allowing federal assistance to supplement state, tribal, and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by the coronavirus pandemic that began on January 20. The president’s approval also makes federal funding available for crisis counseling for those who have been affected by the COVID-19 virus.
The federal funding is also accessible to state, tribal and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations for emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, for all areas in the state impacted by COVID-19.
In a press briefing that was live-streamed by The Florida Channel, DeSantis applauded the efforts made by Trump, calling the president “a heck of an ally.”
DeSantis on President Trump: “He’s been a heck of an ally” pic.twitter.com/uNFIkwvlTU
— WSVN 7 News (@wsvn) March 25, 2020
“I think he’s been great for us,” DeSantis told reporters during the broadcast.
DeSantis, like Trump, has received immense blowback for his pragmatic approach and handling of the outbreak. While Democrats and detractors have called on DeSantis to issue a mandatory stay-at-home order, the Republican has refused, citing the negative impact it would have on Florida’s economy.
DeSantis doubled-down today, saying that he still won’t issue the statewide order and that he will reassess Florida’s temporary shutdown as more data comes in.
The governor has taken several precautions to prevent the spread of the disease, including proactive measures like closing bars and nightclubs, dine-in restaurants, gyms, beaches and other venues, and quarantining travelers from New York where the outbreak is spreading like wildfire.
The press release from the White House also stated that Pete Gaynor, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, named Gracia B. Szczech as the Federal Coordinating Officer for Federal recovery operations in the affected areas.
The White House said that additional designations may be made at a later time if the state of Florida requests it.
Trump’s approval comes days after DeSantis sent a letter requesting the inclusion of the following Individual Assistance Programs in the declaration: Disaster Unemployment Assistance, Crisis Counseling, Community Disaster Loans and the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Program.
In addition to the Individual Assistance Programs, the declaration requested additional resources and support from FEMA
The declaration was submitted on Monday by DeSantis.