By Vicki Needham - 09/04/11 07:24 PM EDT
During a trip to tour storm damage in New Jersey, President Obama vowed to get federal money to those hard hit last weekend by Hurricane Irene.
The president traveled to Paterson, N.J., on Sunday to view areas affected when the Passaic River crested over its banks, forcing hundreds to evacuate the area. Obama spoke with local residents, many still without power.
“The entire country is behind you. We are going to make sure that we provide all the resources that are necessary in order to help these communities rebuild.”
Late last week, the White House told Congress it needed $5 billion more in disaster relief money, outside of what’s needed for Irene.
Under the budget deal crafted in August, there’s $11 billion in aid available that doesn’t need to be offset by spending cuts, as some Republicans have demanded, including House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric CantorJuan Williams: The capitulation of Paul Ryan The Trail 2016: The Big One Conservative sworn in to replace Boehner MORE (Va.).
Right now, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has less than $800 million in its disaster relief fund to help those affected by Irene through September.
As for those who say it might take a while to find funds, “we are going to meet our obligations,” Obama vowed.
In times of disaster, “we’re one country, and when one part of the country gets affected, whether it’s a tornado in Joplin, Missouri, or a hurricane that affects the Eastern Seaboard, then we come together as one country and we make sure that everybody gets the help that they need,” the president said.
“I’m going to make sure that even after the cameras are gone and attention is somewhere else that FEMA and federal officials continue to work with our local officials to make sure we’re doing the right thing.”
Administration officials said the president was accompanied on his tour of the storm-hit areas by FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and New Jersey Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D) and Bob MenendezRobert MenendezOvernight Cybersecurity: Senate narrowly rejects expanding FBI surveillance powers Senate narrowly rejects new FBI surveillance Kaine, Murphy push extension of Iran sanctions MORE (D).
The president also took time to praise the efforts of emergency response workers.
“I’m very proud of the work that FEMA has done not only from our central agency but, more importantly, the folks locally here on the ground who have been coordinating with the emergency management teams here in New Jersey,” Obama said.
But as the president toured New Jersey, parts of the Gulf Coast were facing the effects of Tropical Storm Lee. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported flooding in some parts of New Orleans.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Obama was monitoring events there as well. He told reporters that Fugate was “providing [Obama] updates on that tropical storm.”
“We are obviously monitoring that, concerned about ... what ... has been and will be a significant amount of rainfall,” Carney added.
The president also spent part of the last long weekend of the summer working on the jobs-plan speech he’ll deliver Thursday to a joint session of Congress.
Carney said the president spent “part of the weekend putting finishing touches on the jobs speech” and is “very far along.”
For the past week, Obama has urged Congress to act quickly on what he called a “bipartisan agenda” that is expected to include infrastructure spending and requests for an extension of unemployment benefits and the payroll tax cut.
Carney said “policymakers need to take action to spur growth,” and the proposals the president will make on jobs “without question will positively affect growth.”
This story was updated at 4:15 p.m.