Channel 1 Los Angeles
Washington D.C. 3/20/2020
Federal Emergency Management Agency Headquarters
THE PRESIDENT: Everybody ready? Okay, Chad, do you want to start it? Do you — do you want to start off?
ACTING SECRETARY WOLF: Well, Mr. President, Vice President, thank you for being here. Really appreciate your visit to FEMA. I think your visit really, as you indicated last week by signing the national emergency, has really empowered FEMA. We’ve gone to a level one here at the NRCC and continue to support the emergency — continue to support all elements and really working with the interagency and our state and local partners.
The governors, who you will talk to you here in a few minutes, know the FEMA process, know how that works in cases of both natural and manmade emergencies. And that’s the process that we’ll be using going forward, making sure that they are linked up with their emergency operation centers and tied into FEMA.
So again, thank you for being here. We look forward to your remarks. So, thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much. It is great having FEMA involved. We’ve had tremendous success working together, and we appreciate all of the people here. And it’s an honor to be with all of you. You’re doing a fantastic job, by the way. And so now we’re, as of yesterday when we — when we gave the order, FEMA is totally involved, in addition to everybody else. And a lot of progress is being made, so I look forward to speaking to the governors.
And from what I understand, we have pretty close to 50 of the governors and some territories on, and we have a lot of — just about everybody showed up, so that’s very nice. And we will put them on the screen as soon as you want.
Thank you. Thank you very much.
Mike, do you want to say something?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Mr. President, and I want to — I want to add our thanks, not only to the great team here at the National Response Coordination Center and FEMA, as FEMA takes the lead in implementing the policies that you approved from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, but as you as you do continually, Mr. President, I want to thank all the governors that are joining us today.
Today is an opportunity to talk about the progress that we are making on mitigation, on testing, on supplies. We understand as FEMA’s — as FEMA’s mission, that this effort, through FEMA, will be locally executed, state managed, and federally supported. And I want all the governors to know that we are with you every step of the way. We are absolutely determined, at the President’s direction, to make sure that you have the resources and the support as you see to the health and wellbeing of your communities.
We commend the governors. At this point, Mr. President, as we told the country today, three states are 50 percent of the coronavirus cases in America today, so we’re focusing resources at the point of the need. The governors in those states, their state health officials are responding with great professionalism and great speed. We’ll continue to support those that are directly impacted.
But by standing up, through your national emergency declaration, Mr. President, standing up FEMA and standing up the National Response Coordination Center, we want our governors, we want all of our state and local health officials to know that we are, as you say, bringing the full — the full weight of the federal government to bear to support our states and our local communities, and that we’ll get through this coronavirus and we’ll get through this together.
THE PRESIDENT: I agree with that 100 percent. Thank you very much. And for the media, I guess perhaps you’re going to stand aside. We’re going to have the screen right behind you. And we’ll start opening this up to the governors, if that’s okay. Please. Yeah, go ahead.
Okay, who is next speaking?
GOVERNOR KEMP: This is Brian Kemp, from Georgia, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Hi. Hi, Brian.
GOVERNOR KEMP: Can you hear me all right?
THE PRESIDENT: I can hear you fine. Thank you, Brian.
GOVERNOR KEMP: I just want to thank — thank you all for the constant communication. And I applaud the move to stand FEMA up at level one. I appreciate HHS and all that they have done.
I had just three quick things for you. One, I just want to encourage you all to leave the directive for the National Guard with the governors. As you all know, I think we — we’re on the frontline of the fight, and we’re in the fight with you. But I believe that we can best make those directives based on what’s going on in our state.
THE PRESIDENT: I like that idea, Brian.
GOVERNOR KEMP: I don’t know if I speak for —
THE PRESIDENT: That’s done. I like it.
GOVERNOR KEMP: Well, thank you.
The second think I have is, I want to thank you standing up the federal medical facility close to Dobbins Air Force Base. As you all know, we had many passengers from the Grand Princess in Georgia — almost 500 that were from all over the country. We were glad to work with you all to support our neighbors from other states, including 31 Georgians.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
GOVERNOR KEMP: We’re down to about 200 people there right now. We have got things working very well there. But I want to encourage you, when those visitors leave, I would like for you to consider leaving that facility stood up to help us with the surge that we’re seeing in our — especially in Metro Atlanta area hospitals. So I just want to keep that on the table if you’re willing to consider that.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay.
GOVERNOR KEMP: And then the third thing — and I will pass this along to you — this is just kind of a big idea, if you will, is as the stimulus packages continue to move through the Congress — we created an economic impact subcommittee of my coronavirus task force. They had a recommendation, and we just got this not too long ago. But we’ve been vetting it all morning. But one idea to help the states in these struggling revenue environments that is 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. And the idea of a block grant to the states to help fill revenue shortfalls would be something I’d like for you to consider.
And also, we had an idea on the unemployment insurance. But I’ll get to you all for consideration. I just want to get that on your radar —
THE PRESIDENT: Okay.
GOVERNOR KEMP: — and we’ll talk to our congressional delegation as well. I know you have a lot of things to consider, and we just wanted to throw that out there.
But thanks again for the constant communication and support.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Very good. And thank you very much. And we will consider everything you’ve said. Thank you very much.
Okay. Who’s next? Next governor, please?
GOVERNOR MURPHY: Hi, this is Phil Murphy.
THE PRESIDENT: You’re looking well, Phil. You’re looking well.
GOVERNOR MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. President. So are you. Good to see you and the Vice President. Thank you for everything.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
GOVERNOR MURPHY: Just a couple quick points. We’ve had really good — a really good week with FEMA, so I want to give them a shout-out. FEMA Region II is helping us —
THE PRESIDENT: Good.
GOVERNOR MURPHY: — set up testing. The Army Corps is actually visiting us in this building at 4 o’clock today to talk about repurposing facilities for more beds. So thank you for that.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. Yep.
GOVERNOR MURPHY: We’ve has conversations with the VA in terms of backup medical support.
Two areas. One, just in terms of where we’re going need some help: One is to underscore Governor Kemp’s point on flexible block grants. Those will be important to us to allow us to continue to serve our people.
And secondly, we are — the Lord helps those that help themselves. So I promise you we’re doing everything we can get PPE. We’re acquiring it. We’re getting donations, but we still are going to need a big slug-out of the Strategic Stockpile. So for all the above: Many, many thanks.
THE PRESIDENT: And so, Phil, try — try what you can. Do the best you can to get what you can actually get. And we’re also having a lot of things produced that, frankly, nobody has ever seen anything like this before. But do the best you can.
And on block grants, we’re going to consider that very strongly. Thank you, Phil.
GOVERNOR MURPHY: Thanks, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, John Bel.
GOVERNOR EDWARDS: Mr. Vice President, we appreciate the communication, the coordination, and all the help.
I did want to just put on your radar screen the fact that I think if you look at cases by state, on a per-capita basis, we’re right at the top of the country — three or four. And, of course, the healthcare infrastructure is designed to meet the populations. And my fear, based on modeling I’ve received today, is that as early as seven days we can start to exceed our capacity to deliver healthcare. And even after surging, we may only get an additional three days. And so I’m asking for help in terms of surging our medical capacity.
Here in Louisiana, we’ve got some requests in. For example, we have a VA hospital in New Orleans where we’ve requested to be able to surge patients there. We haven’t received the response yet. We’ve got a request in for a federal medical station through HHS. We’re just asking for help. That is the — that is the 10-meter target for me right now, because we’re going to do everything we can to mitigate and slow the spread, but in the time that we have, we’ve got to — we’ve got to increase our surge capacity. That is my biggest concern. And I just wanted to express that to you and ask for your ongoing help as (inaudible) —
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. What is your second request?
GOVERNOR EDWARDS: (Inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: John Bel, what’s your second request, please? The second request.
GOVERNOR EDWARDS: Well, the second request, beyond surge capacity, is looking at National Guard and bringing them under Title 32 for funding purposes.
THE PRESIDENT: Right. Okay. We’re going to look at that, and I’m going to try and get you immediate approval on the hospital. I know about the hospital request. And so we’re going to speak to the VA. We’re going to see if we can get immediate — at least as a switch, but we’ll get that approved for you one way or the other. All right?
GOVERNOR EDWARDS: Thank you very much, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Thanks a lot, John Bel. Thank you.
I might ask very briefly, while we’re waiting for the next governor to come on, Mike, if you could say a few words. And also, Deborah, if you could say a few words, it would be great. And then we have another governor teed up. Please.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Great. Again, thank — thank all the governors for your leadership and your partnership in confronting the coronavirus. A few updates and a few requests for each one of you. I want you all to make your citizens aware the President signed the Family First Coronavirus Response Act last night. Coronavirus testing is free, paid sick leave, family leave for caregivers, food assistance to the needy. Get the word out to your citizens. It would be very helpful.
On testing: As we’ve said many times — and worked with many of you through your state labs and certified labs and, of course, at the CDC — testing is now available in all 50 states. We want you to be aware that if you have questions about the availability of testing in your state, you obviously can talk to your state health department and healthcare providers.