Opinion: Gov. Whitmer, request funds from FEMA

Tori Sachs

Four weeks after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer joined Sen. Gary Peters in sending a press statement welcoming federal funds to Michigan for the coronavirus crisis response, it was confirmed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that Whitmer has yet to formally request federal emergency funds for our state.

Whitmer has spent the past couple weeks making national TV appearances on MSNBC, CNN, FOX News, and NBC. Nearly every time, Whitmer has blamed the federal government for the coronavirus response and making the case that Michigan needs “federal support” for the state’s efforts.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on MSNBC speaking about coronavirus measures.

In that time, President Donald Trump has granted coronavirus-related major disaster declarations to Texas, Iowa, Louisiana, Washington, California, and New York. As of March 25, Michigan had the fifth most confirmed cases of COVID-19 – more than Louisiana, Texas, and Iowa – yet our state has not submitted the request to FEMA that Whitmer continues to say she needs.

The highly trained and talented state emergency operations staff of the Michigan State Police have requested many federal disaster and emergency declarations. Their website clearly lays out the process of requesting such assistance: “If the resources of the state and local government are unable to cope with the emergency or disaster, the governor may request assistance through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Region V Office.”

It goes on to say: “Should the state request federal disaster assistance, FEMA will review the request and make a recommendation to the president, who will make the final determination on any disaster aid to be provided to the state. The goal of disaster assistance is not to make individuals, businesses or government entities whole again, but to restore the community to a level that meets expected health and safety considerations.”

It’s unfortunate that Whitmer didn’t know that going on cable news to lob partisan attacks against the president will not get the state any federal disaster resources if the governor doesn’t submit a request for the funds.

It’s time for Whitmer to stop her partisan television appearances and start managing the coronavirus crisis response for the state to ensure all available resources are reaching the Michiganders who need them.

Nearly every time Whitmer does a live press briefing she reminds us that Michigan residents are tough and that we can get through this together — an agreeable statement. But now it’s her turn to put politics aside, take her own advice, and work together with the federal government to see that the people of Michigan make it through this trying time as strong as possible.

I hope Whitmer will heed this advice to do what is best for our state.

Tori Sachs is the executive director of Michigan Rising Action.