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President Donald Trump speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, Friday, March 20, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Federal

Donald Trump declares major disaster in Florida over coronavirus

Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott had asked the President to declare the disaster.

President Donald Trump declared a major disaster in Florida Wednesday over the coronavirus outbreak.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott had asked the President to give the order to provide greater assistance to state, tribal and local governments battling COVID-19. Some private nonprofit organizations can also

Trump’s action makes federal funding available for crisis counseling for affected individuals in the state.

“Thank you, President @realDonaldTrump for approving Florida’s Disaster Declaration which will provide federal funds to help communities recover from the effects of #COVID19,” DeSantis tweeted. “We are prepared for the fight ahead and will come out stronger than ever before.”

The declaration came shortly after the two major counties in the Tampa Bay area, Hillsborough and Pinellas, moved to impose lockdown orders. DeSantis has refused to impose a statewide lockdown like California, New York, Illinois and other states have done, saying the mostly smaller counties that have no or few confirmed cases should not have the same restrictions that the metropolitan areas are imposing.

State Democrats have called on the Republican governor to impose a statewide lockdown, but he said again that he doesn’t believe that all areas in such a large state need the same approach.

“There are parts of the state where you have more sporadic cases and to order someone to not earn a paycheck when them going to work is not having any effect on what we are doing with the virus, that is something that I think is inappropriate,” DeSantis said.

The declaration will allow more federal resources to freely flow to the state.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) administrator, Pete Gaynor, named Gracia Szczech the federal coordinating officer for federal recovery operations.

The last time the President declared Florida as eligible for major disaster assistance came after Hurricane Dorian affected the state last year.

Vice President Mike Pence in a Monday press conference said he has spoken with all Governors requesting a major disaster declaration.

“I’ve assured them we are reviewing them in an expeditious manner,” Pence said.

Trump also declared a major disaster in Texas Wednesday. On Tuesday, he declared disasters in Iowa and Louisiana.

The President also approved a request from California Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a major disaster in that state. On Saturday, he issued a similar declaration for New York.

There are now 1,682 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Florida, and 22 residents have died from the virus, as of a Wednesday morning report. The count includes 1,583 cases among Florida residents.

Miami-Dade and Broward counties remain the state’s biggest hotspots of COVID-19

Earlier in the month, DeSantis ordered a state of emergency over the disease.

In a letter Monday joining the Governor in his call for the disaster declaration, Rubio and Scott said new disasters are rising daily. Florida Department of Health officials reported over 215 new confirmed cases overnight Wednesday morning.

“Federal government resources as well as coordination between federal and state officials are critical to Florida’s efforts to effectively and expediently combat the COVID-19 pandemic,” both Senators wrote.

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The Associated Press contributed to this post. Republished with permission.

Written By

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at renzo@floridapolitics.com and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.

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