Evan El-Amin, Shutterstock
Following days of threats to withhold federal disaster relief from Michigan because Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had been critical of him, President Donald Trump finally announced he approved the funds on Saturday.
The major disaster declaration
provides federal funding and assistance to State, tribal, and local recovery efforts. It also makes funding available for crisis counseling for all affected Michiganders.
According to the declaration, "additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the State and warranted by the results of further assessments."
“This is a good start, and it will help us protect Michiganders and slow the spread of COVID-19,” Whitmer said in a statement. “I’m hopeful that the president will review my request for individual assistance programs that would provide meals to families who need them and rental assistance and temporary housing for families. I look forward to the federal government’s continued partnership as we work to fight this virus.”
The relief comes after days of sparring between Trump and Whitmer on national television, with Whitmer criticizing the Trump administration for the shortage of medical supplies.
On Thursday, Trump went on Fox News to suggest he would withhold aid from Whitmer, who he called "the young, a woman governor from — you know who I'm talking about — from Michigan," because she had "not been pleasant."
"Now she wants a declaration of emergency and, you know, we'll have to make a decision on that," Trump said.
On Friday, Trump was even more blunt, saying he specifically instructed Vice President Mike Pence not to return calls to Whitmer and Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee, who had also been critical — calling to mind the Ukraine quid pro quo scandal
that got him impeached.
"I say, 'Mike, don't call the governor of Washington, you're wasting your time with him. Don't call the woman in Michigan," he said at a White House press briefing. "If they don't treat you right, I don't call."
It appears Trump was holding out for fodder for a campaign ad. On Friday, Trump released a campaign commercial that included praise
from governors for coronavirus disaster relief efforts.
Michigan and Detroit have become hotspots for the spread of coronavirus in the U.S., with 3,657 new positive cases
reported Friday. Michigan ranks fifth in the country in total confirmed infections.
Stay on top of Detroit news and views. Sign up for our weekly issue newsletter delivered each Wednesday.