(The Center Square) – President Donald Trump’s administration has approved Illinois’ COVID-19 disaster declaration, which opens the state up to federal assistance.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a disaster declaration earlier this month, which started the process.

In an announcement Thursday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said federal emergency aid will be made available to Illinois to supplement local recovery efforts that began Jan. 20 and beyond.

“This declaration will provide emergency funding to increase hospital and housing capacity as we respond to this unprecedented health crisis,” Pritzker said. “This declaration also provides resources to expand telehealth, allowing us to safely reach more Illinoisans in need of care.”

“The President's action makes federal funding available for Crisis Counseling for affected individuals in all areas of the state of Illinois,” the FEMA announcement said.

The approval also means federal funding will help cover up to 75 percent of local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations costs for various protective measures where the federal government will cover 75 percent. That includes federal assistance for all areas affected by COVID-19.

“The pandemic has required extreme response efforts from the State, and federal assistance will be necessary to ensure the well-being of Illinoisans,” a letter U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth sent the White House urging the approval of a disaster. “This disaster has placed an unprecedented economic burden on not only communities across the state, but families and individuals.”

Pritzker said another request remains pending.

“My administration is also seeking another disaster declaration for all 102 counties of Illinois, which would allow us to access FEMA’s individual assistance program,” Pritzker said. “This would give us resources like more unemployment benefits for those not currently eligible for state unemployment insurance, enhanced benefits for those seeking shelter, food and emergency supplies, new legal services and financial assistance to our under-insured households.”

Staff Reporter

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other statewide issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience, and previously hosted “Bishop On Air,” a morning-drive current events talk show.