Trump's coronavirus emergency declaration met with praise, skepticism

Dareh Gregorian

President Donald Trump's decision to declare a national emergency to combat the coronavirus on Friday was met with bipartisan praise, a warm reaction from Wall Street and some skepticism from Democrats.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed with a gain of 1,900 points as the president announced the action, which could free as much $50 billion to help states reeling from the impact from the outbreak of the coronavirus.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., tweeted that he's "very supportive of President Trump’s declaration of a National Emergency. It’s the right next step to protect our citizens and our economy. Also, GREAT action to overhaul our testing approach with public-private partnerships — millions more tests approved and available soon!"

The move was also praised by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who'd been urging the president to take the dramatic step.

“I'm pleased the president heeded our calls to invoke the Stafford Act to extend vital financial assistance to help keep communities safe from the coronavirus outbreak. I urge New York and other states to immediately request these newly available funds and for the Trump administration to approve these requests without delay," Schumer said.

But, he added, “As other steps are considered, the president must not overstep his authority or indulge his autocratic tendencies for purposes not truly related to this public health crisis.”

Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, called the declaration "welcome and long overdue." But, he added, "the announcement lacks essential details – particularly regarding what funding is encompassed by the $50 billon the President announced and how soon it will it be available to the States.”

Under the Stafford Act, an "infectious disease emergency declaration" by the president allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide disaster relief funding to state and local governments as well as federal assistance to support the coronavirus response. The law allows the agency to circumvent legal barriers to more quickly distribute such aid.

Trump said the action would "open up access" to up to $50 billion "for states and territories and localities in our shared fight against this disease."

He also said he was ordering every state to set up emergency operation centers to help stem the spread of the virus, and said he was empowering the secretary of Health and Human Services to waive certain laws and regulations to ensure the virus can be contained and patients treated.

Trump has declared national emergencies before, most notably in February of last year.

That's when he announced a national emergency to combat the "invasion of our country with drugs, with human traffickers, with all types of criminals and gangs" coming in from Mexico, allowing him to claim billions of dollars from other projects to fund construction of a wall along the southern border.