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Biden announces disaster declaration for Texas amid severe weather

The White House announced Saturday that President BidenJoe BidenNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors Biden celebrates vaccine approval but warns 'current improvement could reverse' MORE approved a major disaster declaration for Texas as the state grapples with severe winter weather. 

The move paves the way for more federal resources for the Lone Star State, which suffered from widespread blackouts and water shortages as subfreezing temperatures ravaged infrastructure that the state government had failed to winterize.

The declaration will funnel federal funding to 77 of Texas’s 254 counties. It also allows individuals and businesses to apply for federal aid, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and grants to help support temporary housing and repairs for home damage. 

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The president has already approved states of emergency in Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas over the storms, which have killed dozens. The major disaster declaration for Texas will allow for even more support from Washington.

Temperatures are on the rise in Texas, though tens of thousands of residents are still believed to be without electricity, and millions are suffering from water disruptions. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has already supplied Texas with 60 generators to support critical sites such as hospitals and water facilities, 729,000 liters of water, more than 10,000 wool blankets, 50,000 cotton blankets, and 225,000 meals. Biden said he is also hoping to visit Texas soon as long as his trip would not be a “burden” on the state.

The disaster in Texas has shined a light on the struggles its infrastructure could face in light of future bouts of severe weather. The historically low temperatures caught the state off guard and called for significant changes to be made to prevent similar fallout moving forward. 

Texas wind turbines haven’t been equipped with the same winterization packages as those in the northern U.S., and machinery for other sources of energy wasn’t insulated enough to grapple with water intake issues in the subfreezing temperatures. 

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While the state had also long taken pride in the fact that its electric grid was removed from those of other states, critics have said connections to Texas’s neighbors could have also helped prevent rolling blackouts that left millions of residents in the dark. 

Beyond the broad criticism of Texas’s infrastructure, the political fallout for the state’s lawmakers has been swift.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has called for an investigation of the state’s main power grid, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, but also caught flak for advocating for the winterizing of the state’s wind turbines and natural gas pipelines — a process that was first recommended 10 years ago. And the governor was broadly criticized for saying the Green New Deal was to blame for Texas’s problems, even though that proposal is not state law.

Sen Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech Sunday shows preview: 2024 hopefuls gather at CPAC; House passes coronavirus relief; vaccine effort continues Texas attorney general hits links with Trump before CPAC appearance MORE (R-Texas) is perhaps drawing the fiercest rebukes after he was seen leaving his Houston home with his family for a vacation in Cancun before swiftly returning to Texas after a wave of criticism. 

“It was obviously a mistake, and in hindsight, I wouldn’t have done it,” he said this week.