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What does a national coronavirus emergency mean for Maine?

President Trump declared a national emergency over coronavirus on Friday; under the Stafford Act, the government will assist Maine in handling the situation.

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — While several cities and almost 30 states—including our New England neighbor Massachusetts—have declared state of emergencies, Gov. Janet Mills has not yet declared a state of emergency in Maine over the coronavirus. On Friday, President Donald Trump invoked a national emergency under the Stafford Act during a press conference at the White House.

Under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, which was signed into law in 1988, declaring a national emergency triggers aid that provides states and localities with financial, technical, and logistical support during emergency events that overwhelm their capacity to respond. It would free up billions in assistance for states. There is $42.6 billion in the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund; the national emergency declaration would give the administration access to that money.

RELATED: What does coronavirus mean for your Maine workplace?

Under the declaration, the federal government would use that money to help states, cities, and counties with funding protective measures; the state must account for 25 percent of the funding, and the federal government picks up the rest.

The Act states, “The Federal share of assistance under this section shall be not less than 75 percent of the eligible cost of such assistance.”

In a pandemic, federal assistance to states under the Stafford Act includes providing emergency medical care and temporary medical facilities; food, water, medicine, and other supplies; and management control and reduction of immediate threats to public health and safety.

RELATED: Friday Update: Maine now has three presumptive positive cases of the coronavirus

As of Friday, Maine has three presumptive positive cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. A presumptive positive case means it has tested positive at the state lab and has been sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for confirmation. 

Nationally, there are have been more than 1,200 cases and at least 40 deaths. There has been criticism nationwide regarding the lack of available testing. 

At NEWS CENTER Maine, we're focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus

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