March 13, 2020

Duckworth Statement on President Trump’s COVID-19 National Emergency Declaration


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) today released the following statement after President Trump issued an emergency disaster declaration under the Stafford Act to strengthen federal support to state, local and tribal efforts to protect public health during the COVID-19 pandemic:

“The Trump Administration botched its response to the COVID-19 outbreak from the beginning by eliminating the office that could have helped our country prepare for this pandemic, rejecting the World Health Organization’s proven COVID-19 test and then failing to efficiently develop its own complicated test kit on the first try. The Trump Administration’s failure to widely distribute a functional test kit to public health officials across the country has set our response back—while Donald Trump’s spewing of misinformation has only sown chaos and confusion at every turn. While today’s action should have been taken much sooner, I’m glad President Trump has finally heeded my call for him to declare a national emergency under the Stafford Act to combat the spread of COVID-19.

“This declaration will enable the Federal Government to provide FEMA grants and bridge loans to small businesses affected by COVID-19 and take on a greater role coordinating with state and local governments as they work to contain this outbreak. I hope today marks a turning point for Donald Trump and urge him to do more to take this pandemic seriously and work with Congress to make sure we can support all Americans and mitigate the spread of this virus. Because while this emergency declaration is an important step, we also need to ensure hourly workers can apply for expedited unemployment insurance and provide guaranteed paid leave so everyone can take time off if they feel sick.”

The overdue issuance of a Stafford Act Emergency Declaration unlocks two forms of federal assistance: public assistance for emergency protective measures and individual assistance for individuals and households. This will supplement existing efforts already ongoing under the Public Health Emergency declaration and the U.S. Small Business Administration’s economic injury disaster loan program.

Earlier this week, Duckworth introduced the COVID-19 Health Care Worker Protection Act that would require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to promulgate an emergency temporary standard to protect frontline health care workers who are at increased risk of exposure to the coronavirus. She also pressed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield for information on the potential shortage of enzymes needed for CDC coronavirus test kits. Duckworth also wrote to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to highlight her concerns that the Department of Defense has not yet taken proactive steps to ensure the readiness of National Guard and Reserve units to support local civilian authorities should the COVID-19 pandemic continue to spread.

Last week, Duckworth sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) urging the agency take immediate action to dramatically improve establish clear diagnostic testing procedures, capabilities and production capacity to better mitigate against the impact of the highly contagious coronavirus 2 (COVID-19) that is spreading throughout communities in the United States. She also wrote to the U.S. Small Business Administration to request the agency establishes a task force focused on effectively and efficiently providing assistance to small businesses harmed by the outbreak of COVID-19.