US President Donald Trump (Photo Credit: PTI)
US President Donald Trump on Friday declared a national emergency over coronavirus under Stafford Act to provide additional federal aid to states and localities. The move is likely to help open up tens of billions of dollars to help fight the rapidly spreading pandemic. President Trump, earlier, took to Twitter and wrote, "I will be having a news conference today at 3:00 P.M., The White House. Topic: CoronaVirus."
I will be having a news conference today at 3:00 P.M., The White House. Topic: CoronaVirus!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2020
Trump had hinted Thursday that he was strongly considering taking emergency action, telling reporters in the Oval Office that he was thinking of invoking the Stafford Act to declare a national emergency.
"We have very strong emergency powers under the Stafford Act," the president said during a bilateral meeting Thursday with the Irish prime minister. "I have it memorized, practically, as to the powers in that act. And if I need to do something, I'll do it. I have the right to do a lot of things that people don't even know about."
The announcement came as Congress and the White House said they were nearing agreement on measures to ease the financial pain caused by the pandemic’s disruption to the economy. A deal would likely dampen panic in the stock markets and offer reassurance for Americans facing possible severe health costs and job turmoil resulting from the sudden slowdown in economic activity.
Trump could also declare a national emergency, which would free up substantial federal funding. His press conference comes after a widely panned national address on Wednesday, which not only failed to calm growing nerves but contained serious factual errors and was followed by a massive stock market sell-off. Trump is likely to face a barrage of questions over what critics say has been a chaotic public health response, particularly regarding meager testing capacities for the virus.
In addition, Trump is under pressure to explain why he is not being tested for coronavirus himself, or even going into self-quarantine, following his contact with numerous politicians who took the precautionary measure.
Last weekend, Trump hosted Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who said Friday he tested negative for the virus after it emerged that his press secretary had tested positive. Trump also met with the press secretary during the dinner at his golf resort in Florida.
(With agency inputs)