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Trump grants some disaster aid to Michigan; state also gets N95 masks

President Trump approved in part Michigan’s request for federal disaster aid after a week of finger pointing with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer over who was, or wasn’t, doing enough as the state battles a surge in cases of the coronavirus. 

Whitmer separately announced Saturday that the state received 112,800 N95 masks from the Strategic National Stockpile, with another 8,000 on the way. The specialized masks are badly needed by doctors and other critical healthcare personnel treating thousands of patients diagnosed with COVID-19 or suspected of having it, mostly in Southeast Michigan.

On Twitter, Whitmer called the mask delivery “(g)reat news for our health care workers.

“We'll keep working hard along with FEMA and the White House to get more of the PPE we need to keep Michiganders safe,” she tweeted, referencing personal protective equipment.

The Major Disaster declaration was approved late Friday, one day after Whitmer requested it. It frees up help through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for Michiganders impacted by COVID-19 and the measures the state has taken to slow the spread of the virus. Whitmer said funding was approved for a crisis counseling program and for emergency protective measures, medical supplies, and personal protective equipment and childcare. She said other individual assistance aid she requested has not yet been granted. 

“This is a good start, and it will help us protect Michiganders and slow the spread of COVID-19,” Whitmer said in a statement Saturday.

“I’m hopeful that the president will review my request for individual assistance programs that would provide meals to families who need them and rental assistance and temporary housing for families. I look forward to the federal government’s continued partnership as we work to fight this virus,” she said.

Michigan is one of the nation’s hardest hit states with more than 3,600 confirmed cases of the virus and 92 deaths as of Friday. 

Whitmer said she is still hoping the federal government will grant her request for assistance to cover costs for unemployment assistance and Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programming, or D-SNAP. A Congressional stimulus package signed by the president Friday will provide some funds, but Whitmer said the president has the ability to release more.

The governor sent a letter to the president Thursday, along with the formal application requesting the disaster declaration.. She asked for help to cover costs related to, among other things, unemployment, crisis counseling, food assistance, legal services, water control, roads, bridges, water control facilities, and debris clean-up, debris removal and “emergency protective measures.”

She also outlined nearly two dozen formal actions her office had taken, beginning with the opening of the Michigan Emergency Operations 

Center to responses even before the first case was confirmed. 

Related: Stay at home, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says as coronavirus cases soar

On the same day that the first COVID-19 positive test results, she declared a state of emergency and followed it with executive orders that closed schools, limited crowds, banned visitors from large facilities, and ultimately in a shelter-in-place order Monday, suspended all but essential activities.

“While the people and businesses of the great State of Michigan have shown incredible resilience and cooperation throughout this difficult time, we cannot weather this storm alone,” the request reads.

Whitmer and Trump exchanged jabs throughout the week about who was helping Michigan and who was slow to do so. Trump repeatedly accused Whitmer and Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee, both Democrats, of being critical of the uneven federal response to the pandemic and insufficiently appreciative of his and the government’s efforts.   

On Friday, Trump tweeted: “I love Michigan, one of the reasons we are doing such a GREAT job for them during this horrible Pandemic. Yet your Governor, Gretchen ‘Half’ Whitmer is way in over her head, she doesn’t have a clue. Likes blaming everyone for her own ineptitude!”

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