President Donald Trump announced a national emergency Friday afternoon during a press conference in response to the escalating coronavirus crisis. He was joined by Vice President Mike Pence for the press conference at the White House Rose Garden, which came shortly before the markets close for the week. The president announced he was enacting the Stafford Act, which enables him to increase funding for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) efforts.
"To unleash the full power of the federal government in this effort today, I am officially declaring a national emergency," Trump said Friday afternoon. "Two very big words. The action I am taking will open up access to $50 billion... for states and territories and localities in our shared fight against this disease."
The president also urged all states to set up emergency response centers and asked hospitals to begin their emergency preparedness plans so they can "meet the needs of Americans everywhere."
About an hour before Trump delivered his remarks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the House would move forward with a vote Friday on a sweeping package to confront the coronavirus. USA Today reports that the bill would include free testing for all Americans — including those uninsured — as well as two weeks of paid sick leave who have to skip work due to COVID-19. It would also include expanded food assistance, like seniors' meals, student lunches and food banks.
"I will be having a news conference today at 3:00 P.M., The White House. Topic: CoronaVirus!" Trump tweeted Friday morning.
As the president, Trump has the power to declare a national emergency, which gives power to the federal government to more freely redistribute funds to state and local governments in a time of crisis. The Stafford Act was signed into law in 1988 and is designed to encourage local municipalities to design and run their own disaster mitigation efforts, with federal assistance.
The last time Trump declared a national emergency was in February 2019 when he diverted funding for his border wall. That national emergency was declared under a different act, the 1976 National Emergencies Act.
On Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had its worst day since 1987 and trading was halted briefly as markets plunged. On Friday, Wall Street regained its footing, rising 773 points, or 3.7 percent, to 21,974 when markets opened at 9:30 a.m. ET, CBS News reports. The broad-based S&P 500 jumped 5.3 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq surged 5.9 percent.0comments
Trump's announcement comes after the state of Louisiana revealed it will postpone its April 4 presidential preference primary amid ongoing concern surrounding COVID-19. The election will be postponed until June 20, and makes Louisiana the first state to postpone its primary election.
There were more than 1,200 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. as of Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University. Amid the outbreak, schools are closing and large gatherings are being banned. Sporting events like the Boston Marathon and the Masters Tournament were postponed Friday. Earlier this week, the NCAA canceled the remainder of all spring sports, including both the men's and women's NCAA basketball tournaments.