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Trump declares major disaster in Washington state, unlocks benefits

President Donald Trump speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, Saturday, March 21, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

President Donald Trump declared the existence of a federal major disaster in Washington state Sunday. Gov. Jay Inslee sent a 74-page letter to President Trump on Friday requesting he make this declaration.

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Inslee said the declaration will unlock additional funds for things like expanded unemployment assistance, food benefits, mass care for those more at risk, and emergency services for families.

“Tens of thousands of individuals have found themselves unemployed and will require disaster unemployment assistance that is not otherwise available through state disaster unemployment programs, including many hourly workers who are unable to work because they are under quarantine or their business is closed,” Inslee said.

On Wednesday, Inslee had announced that the one-week time period before you can get access to unemployment insurance will be waived.

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The declaration from the President includes an order for federal assistance to supplement state, tribal, and local recovery efforts. According to the official release from the White House, the President’s action will also make federal funding available for crisis counseling in all areas of Washington state.

Trump says he’s ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to ship mobile hospital centers to Washington, California and New York.

Trump is also revealing for the first time the number of respirators and other personal protective equipment sent to the hard-hit states by the federal government.

Trump has held off on using his fully authorities under the Defense Production Act to marshal the private sector’s capabilities. He says it’s up to states to try to get the materials first. He says: “We’re sort of a backup for states.”

Trump says he’s also giving governors in those three states in calling up their national guard, keeping it under local control but providing federal funding.

The Associated Press’ Michael Tackett contributed to this report.

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