President Donald Trump during a signing ceremony for a stimulus package, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Friday, March 27, 2020. He signed into law the largest economic stimulus package in modern American history, backing a $2 trillion measure designed to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
Photo: Erin Schaff/The New York Times
Photo: Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Trump approves Georgia disaster declaration, authorizes federal aid

President Donald Trump on Sunday officially approved Georgia’s disaster declaration, clearing the way for direct federal assistance as the state grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp previously asked Trump for emergency federal aid, and rounded up signatures from GOP governors for a recent letter to Congress requesting federal block grants.

In a statement Sunday, the White House said federal funds are available to the state as well as “eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations for emergency protective measures.”

» COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia

It is unclear how much aid the state could end up receiving from Washington.

"Georgia is grateful for this designation, as it will enable the state to continue partnering with federal agencies in a coordinated fight against this pandemic,” Kemp said in a statement. “The presidential declaration is a critical step in providing additional assistance to our state and local governments as they continue to respond to COVID-19.”

The funds, Kemp said, will cover actions taken by the state that “eliminate or lessen immediate threats to lives, public health, or safety.” 

Gracia Szczech, the regional administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the Southeast, was named federal coordinating officer for recovery operations in Georgia.

Map: Coronavirus cases in Georgia

Dashboard: COVID-19 stats in Georgia

Georgia has at least confirmed 2,651 cases of the coronavirus and 80 deaths associated with COVID-19, the diseased caused by the novel virus, according to figures released by the state Sunday afternoon.

Kemp declared a public health emergency in the state on March 14.

READ MORE: Kemp declares public health emergency; 66 coronavirus cases in Ga.

Since then, officials have predicted the pandemic will leave a deep hole in Georgia’s budget. The governor asked Trump to set aside significant funding to shore up the state’s spending plans.

“Unlike the Recession, when things went down slowly, when states had time to prepare at the end of the year, we’re all facing drastic revenue drops,” Kemp previously told Trump at a teleconference. “The idea of a block grant to the states to help fill revenue shortfalls would be something I’d like for you to consider.”

Trump has approved emergency declarations and federal aid for several other states.

Staff reporter Greg Bluestein contributed to this report.

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