Rep. Pressley, Massachusetts Delegation Urge Trump Administration to Approve Commonwealth's Request for Federal Disaster Declaration to Address the COVID-19 Pandemic

March 27, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Representatives Richard E. Neal (MA-01), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Stephen F. Lynch (MA-08), William Keating (MA-09), Joseph P. Kennedy III (MA-04), Katherine Clark (MA-05), Seth Moulton (MA-06), and Lori Trahan (MA-03) sent a letter urging the White House to approve the Commonwealth's request for a declaration of a federal major disaster due to the state's outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in accordance with the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance (Stafford) Act.

The Commonwealth's request, which includes critical federal assistance such as disaster unemployment assistance and crisis counseling assistance, was made yesterday by Governor Charlie Baker and follows an emergency stay-at-home order and an executive order closing Massachusetts schools.

"As the unprecedented economic impact of COVID-19 impacts the entire country, many Massachusetts residents are being forced out of work," the Massachusetts delegation wrote. "These programs are vital for Massachusetts to adequately respond to the economic and health care impacts of pandemic, particularly as the Commonwealth currently needs additional resources and potentially health care infrastructure to meet the state's needs."

The full text of the letter is below and can be found here.

President Donald J. Trump

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

 

Dear President Trump:

We write to urge you to approve the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’s request for a major disaster declaration due to the ongoing novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. While Massachusetts state agencies and municipalities have taken significant action to address the COVID-19 crisis, a robust and effective response in the Commonwealth requires additional assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

On January 31, 2020, Massachusetts announced the Commonwealth’s first case of COVID-19, and the Commonwealth declared a state of emergency on March 10, 2020. On Monday, March 23, 2020, Governor Baker issued an emergency stay-at-home order, closing all nonessential businesses and banning gatherings of more than 10 people, and yesterday, the Governor announced that all Massachusetts schools will remain closed until at early as May 4, 2020. As of Thursday, March 26, there are 2,417 confirmed cases and have been 25 deaths related to COVID-19 in the Commonwealth.

As the unprecedented economic impact of COVID-19 impacts the entire country, many Massachusetts residents are being forced out of work. In addition to the health effects of the pandemic, Massachusetts has also seen a significant increase in unemployment, with a nearly 20-fold increase in unemployment claims last week, putting the state in the top quarter of states with the largest percentage increase in claims.

In accordance with the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance (Stafford) Act, Massachusetts has requested disaster unemployment assistance, crisis counseling assistance, and other critical federal assistance for the Commonwealth. These programs are vital for Massachusetts to adequately respond to the economic and health care impacts of pandemic, particularly as the Commonwealth currently needs additional resources and potentially health care infrastructure to meet the state’s needs.

Agencies, municipalities, and organizations throughout Massachusetts has taken efforts to slow the COVID-19 outbreak through strong social distancing measures, as recommended by public health experts.11 Federal assistance through FEMA and a major disaster declaration, however, is critically needed to help the Commonwealth’s cities and towns, state agencies, and nonprofit organizations statewide address the pandemic as aggressively and effectively as possible.

On behalf of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, we respectfully urge your timely approval of this request. Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter and your prompt consideration.

 

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