Schumer, other senators to ask Trump to issue national emergency declaration for coronavirus

(CNN) — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other senators are preparing a letter that will ask President Donald Trump to issue an emergency declaration for the coronavirus pandemic.

An aide for Schumer told CNN Wednesday that the minority leader, along with Democratic Sens. Patty Murray of Washington and Gary Peters of Michigan, will call for the formal declaration, which would allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency to use more than $40 billion from the Disaster Relief Fund to assist local state government in their response to the coronavirus.

In an effort to get congressional Republicans to act on the issue, Murray went to the Senate floor on Wednesday to try to pass by unanimous consent a bill that would “allow Americans to earn paid sick leave time so they can address their own health needs and the health needs of their families.” But one Republican senator — Lamar Alexander of Tennessee — objected to the bill, causing it to fail.

While Murray’s bill never had a chance to pass in this form, her request is part of a larger public pressure campaign by Democrats to get Republicans and the White House to respond quickly to the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile in the House, Democrats plan to hold a vote on Thursday on a package they are currently assembling that would serve as a response to the pandemic, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Wednesday morning. The Maryland Democrat said there won’t be time for a Congressional Budget Office score of the bill, and he was unable to provide reporters with a specific cost estimate, saying it will “probably be in the billions.”

FEMA is currently providing support to state partners, providing them supplies such as gloves, hand sanitizers and masks, and working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Listen to the CNN Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction podcast with chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta here.

Last week, Trump signed a $8.3 billion response package to help combat the virus. The agreement provides $7.8 billion in appropriations to address the outbreak of coronavirus as well as an authorization for $500 million in mandatory spending to fund a telehealth program in an effort to expand access to health services for seniors.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared coronavirus a public health emergency in late January, which started the process of making it easier for states to redirect personnel whose salaries might be paid by the federal government.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidance on quarantines to prevent the spread of the virus.

At least 17 states have declared emergencies, which allows them to waive certain regulations.

Previously, the Trump administration declared public health emergencies for the national opioid crisis and, in a more targeted way, for hurricanes and earthquakes that struck Puerto Rico, hurricanes in the Southeast and wildfires out West.


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