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FEMA approves Connecticut's request for a major disaster declaration

Gov. Ned Lamont announced Sunday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved his request for a Major Disaster Declaration for the state due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The declaration will allow the state to take advantage of additional federal assistance programs for public assistance, which means state agencies, municipalities and Native American tribes will be reimbursed for 75 percent of the costs associated with their response to the virus.

Lamont has also requested additional assistance that could provide state residents with benefits, such as expanded unemployment, food, and child care assistance. That remains under review by the White House.

At 5 p.m. Sunday, Lamont announced that an additional 469 Connecticut residents have tested positive for the virus since Saturday and one more has died. This brings the total number of residents who have tested positive to 1,993 with 404 being hospitalized and 34 fatalities.  Lamont also said that more than 11,900 people have now been tested for the virus.

There have now been 20 laboratory-confirmed cases in New London County with four people hospitalized and no deaths. 

The one new local case since Saturday was the first recorded in Old Lyme. That leaves seven towns in the county with no cases: Bozrah, Griswold, North Stonington, Preston, Salem, Sprague and Waterford. Waterford is the last shoreline town in the state without a case.

Late Saturday night, state Department of Public Health Commissioner Renée D. Coleman-Mitchell issued an order directing state, local, and private sector partners to transition homeless residents into less congested housing to ensure social distancing.

The order also requires the development of non-congregate, temporary housing for first responders and health care workers who are at reasonable risk of having been exposed to COVID-19 and cannot return to their homes without the risk of infecting others.

FEMA has said it will reimburse the state and municipalities for 75 percent of the costs for the housing for the homeless, first responders and health care workers.

In announcing the Major Disaster Declaration approval, Lamont said he was grateful that the federal government is recognizing the severity of this pandemic in Connecticut and the impact it is having on the health and safety of the people of the state.

"It is an important step in providing critical aid in our communities,” Lamont said. “I remain hopeful that our request for assistance for individuals will also be approved because this pandemic has had a significant impact on the livelihoods of so many people in Connecticut. Thousands of workers and families are badly hurting. Unlocking this assistance would mean expanded unemployment benefits for those who are out of work because of the emergency, needed food benefits, child care assistance, and a host of other critically important aid.”

Lamont said the funding is imperative to protecting the health and safety of residents and limiting the spread of this virus. He said he was grateful to the state’s congressional delegation for pushing for the declaration.

FEMA announced Sunday that “additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further assessments.”

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said the approval of the disaster declaration “is a critical order that provides a strong financial backstop to state and local COVID-19 emergency efforts, which have been underway for weeks now.”

He reminded officials to keep good records for reimbursement, which he said town finance officials have experience with after events such as Hurricanes Sandy and Irene.

Courtney said the disaster declaration order “dovetails with this past Friday’s passage and enactment of House Resolution 748, the CARES Act, which appropriated $45 billion for FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund. That funding will pay for Connecticut’s FEMA related expenses.”

U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal amd Chris Murphy, both D-Conn., issued the following joint statement.

"The disaster declaration is an important first step in supporting Connecticut's communities and first responders that are on the frontline of this fight. The federal government has an obligation to ensure that our cities and towns receive the funding they need to protect the health and safety of their residents," they said. "We urge the White House to promptly complete their review and approve Governor Lamont's request for individual assistance. Over the past few weeks we have both spoken with workers and businesses impacted by the economic downturn, and they will need every possible source of economic relief to survive the coming months. Our offices will continue to work in close collaboration with Governor Lamont and White House to provide Connecticut with all the resources it will need."

Earlier Sunday, Lamont toured Bio-Med Devices Inc. in Guilford, which manufactures ventilators used in hospitals throughout the world. Lamont's office said he has executed a purchase order with the company for 100 ventilators to be used in Connecticut hospitals to help with the COVID-19 pandemic.


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