Trump made the announcement during a news conference at 3:30 p.m. ET on Friday. The Stafford Act will make more than $42 billion available to states for disaster relief, according to Bloomberg.
Declaring a national emergency will mobilize more resources to fight the virus. This is a critical juncture for Trump, who has in recent weeks compared the severity of coronavirus to the seasonal flu and maintained that his administration had a handle on the outbreak. Just this week, governors and mayors across the U.S. have escalated their response to the spread by closing schools and canceling public events.
“We have very strong emergency powers under the Stafford Act,” Mr. Trump said on Thursday, per the New York Times. “I have it memorized, practically, as to the powers in that act. And if I need to do something, I’ll do it. I have the right to do a lot of things that people don’t even know about.”
Declaring a national emergency will grant states access to funds for emergency workers, medical tests, medical supplies, vaccinations, security for medical facilities, and more.
Trump also announced he will waive interest payments on all federal student loans during the national emergency.
"To help our students and their families, I have waived interest on all student loans held by federal government agencies and that will be until further notice," Trump said. "That’s a big thing for a lot of students who have been left in the middle right now."
After speaking with French President Emmanuel Macron, they have decided to coordinate a video conference call with world leaders to organize research efforts on a vaccine and treatments, and how to counter economic fallout.