Jerome Adams, John Bel Edwards

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, left, flanked by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, speaks at a news conference at the Louisiana State Capitol on March 12, 2020.

(The Center Square) – Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards is asking the federal government to declare a “major disaster” in his state, which has the third-highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the nation.

The declaration would allow the federal government to provide additional financial support for state and local agencies dealing with the growing public health threat. 

“We have overwhelmed our stocks of key resources needed for our hospitals, first responders and emergency managers,” Edwards said. “There will be a long-lasting impact on the state of Louisiana, and we have taken aggressive mitigation measures to fight the spread of COVID-19.”

Edwards previously declared a state Public Health Emergency on March 11. According to the official count Tuesday morning, Louisiana had 1,172 cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, and 34 people had died.

“I have been appreciative of the support of the federal government, especially Vice President Mike Pence’s COVID-19 task force, and I am hopeful FEMA will quickly approve our request as we continue our response and work towards recovery,” Edwards said.

The declaration says “effective response” to the crisis is “beyond the capabilities of the state and local governments” requests supplemental resources for governments and disaster relief organizations as well as insurance compensation for disaster-related losses. Individual assistance could include unemployment assistance, disaster care management, crisis counseling, and assistance with medical, childcare and funeral expenses.

Edwards is requesting 100 percent federal funding for emergency work under the Stafford Act and 100 percent federal funding for “homeland security defense activities.”

The federal government already has declared major disasters in California, Washington and New York, three other hotbeds of the coronavirus.

On Tuesday, Louisiana U.S. Sen. John Kennedy announced a $31 million FEMA grant meant to help his state increase medical services and supplies.

"The federal and state governments are committed to doing whatever it takes to protect local communities from the coronavirus–and to doing it quickly," Kennedy said. 

Staff Reporter

David Jacobs is a Baton Rouge-based award-winning journalist who has written about government, politics, business and culture in Louisiana for almost 15 years. He joined The Center Square in 2018.