Governors urge feds for more funding, testing, equipment
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The nation's governors kept pressing the federal government for supplies and economic aid to battle the new coronavirus in a conference call with the White House on Monday without getting the assurances they were hoping to hear.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, the chairman of the National Governors Association, said the governors are seeking more testing, ventilators and personal protective equipment like masks for health care providers. The call with Vice President Mike Pence lasted about an hour and 15 minutes.
“There aren’t enough of all of these items, and we’re pushing to get our supply wherever we can, and we’re pushing the federal government to produce more of them, distribute more of them, and hopefully we’ll get some progress," Hogan said earlier in the day. "There’s been a little bit of progress, but not nearly enough and not fast enough.”
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Monday her state still was not getting enough help from the federal government. She said Michigan just received its allotment from the U.S. government’s national stockpile. For one hospital, she said, it is 747 N-95 masks, 204 gowns, 4,467 gloves and 64 face shields.
“With the exception of the gloves, that allotment is barely enough to cover one shift at that hospital," Whitmer, a Democrat, said. "It’s not even a full day’s worth of shifts."
Whitmer, citing efforts from companies in her state, said Michigan has secured more than 4 million gloves, 4 million N-95 masks and thousands of gallons of hand sanitizer.
“While I can’t do overnight what the federal government should have done over the course of months in planning, my team and I are working 24/7 to secure the things we need,” Whitmer said.
Michael Ricci, a spokesman for Hogan, described the call Monday as “candid and constructive,” but without a breakthrough that the governors were seeking.
“While we're not where we want to be on all of the governor's requests, we continue to see incremental progress and hope for some breakthroughs in the next few days,” Ricci said.
Connected to the governors by video conference, Pence said he hoped their confidence was boosted by recent steps taken by the administration, including agreeing to pay the costs for New York, California and Washington state to call up the National Guard and for deploying field hospitals in those states.
Pence told the governors to contact their regional administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to discuss specific supply needs, but offered that he’s always available to listen to them, too.
“I’m a phone call away to any governor on this call,” the vice president said.
In other developments, Congress hit another roadblock in talks to inject nearly $2 trillion into the economy. Another attempt to advance the aid bill on Capitol Hill failed in a Monday afternoon vote.
“We’re still pushing very hard for major economic stimulus for monies to go directly to the states so that we can help these businesses and individuals that are impacted, and there’s still no action on that,” said Hogan, a Republican.
Meanwhile, governors announced longer school closures. Virginia public schools will remain closed for the rest of the current school year and certain types of businesses __ such as bowling alleys, gyms and theaters __ must close in response to the outbreak, Gov. Ralph Northam said Monday.
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced Monday that he will soon sign an executive order that will keep the state's schools closed until at least April 20. Lamont previously instituted a two-week school closure on March 17.
Hogan also said he would like to hear more action from the federal government on other priority areas governors presented to the White House on Thursday. He said some progress has been made on invoking Title 32, so that the Federal Emergency Management Agency can cover the cost of National Guard relief missions and providing states with flexibility to use Guard resources.
Hogan noted some federal assistance by extending deadlines relating to the 2020 census. However, he said states are still pushing to extend deadlines for Real ID compliance. Starting Oct. 1, those without a Real ID-compliant license or passport will not be able to board domestic flights, visit a military base or enter some federal buildings.
Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.
Associated Press Writers David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan, Alan Suderman and Sarah Rankin in Richmond, Virginia, Susan Haigh in Hartford, Connecticut, and Darlene Superville contributed to this report.
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