Biden on administration's response to Hurricane Ida: 'We're all in this together'

Biden on administration's response to Hurricane Ida: 'We're all in this together'
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President BidenJoe BidenWhite House: Window for finalizing sweeping budget package 'closing' Jayapal says tuition-free community college 'probably won't' be in spending plan Jan. 6 panel votes to hold Bannon in contempt MORE said on Thursday his administration would help those impacted by Hurricane Ida, outlining his response ahead of his trip to Louisiana to survey the storm’s damage. 

“My message to everyone effected is, we’re all in this together. The nation is here to help. That’s the message I’ve been making clear to the majors, governors, energy and utility leaders in the region who my administration has been working closely with over the last few days,” he said during remarks at the White House. 

“We’ll be working around the clock until the critical needs of the region are fully met. We will meet them,” he added. The president leaves on Friday for his trip to Louisiana.

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He mentioned “new tools” to help with the recovery, like working with private companies that operate electricity and communications to accelerate the restoration of power and cell phone service. 

Biden directed the Federal Aviation Administration to work with Louisiana and Mississippi electric companies to authorize use of surveillance drones, and the Federal Communications Commission to work with cellular providers to initiate an agreement to allow customers with one provider to go to another if that provider is down.

“Just think of the sons and the daughters and moms and dads of loved ones trying to reach each other and the feeling of fear, maybe something happened, and just because they can’t, the cell phone’s not working. Think of the millions of people reaching out for help,” he said. 

He said he’s calling on insurance companies to help “some folks who are hurting,” in response to reports that some insurance companies could deny assistance unless the homeowner was under a mandatory evacuation order. 

“I’m calling on the private insurance companies right now, at this critical moment: Don’t hide behind the fine print and technicality. Do your job. Keep your commitments to your communities that you insure. Do the right thing,” he said. 

The remnants of the hurricane barreled through the Northeast on Wednesday night, killing at least 14 people in New York and New Jersey.

New York Gov. Kathy HochulKathy HochulWoman accused of trying to set fire at Jewish school arrested in New York City The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Jan. 6 panel flexes its muscle EMILY's List announces early endorsement of Hochul MORE (D) and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) both issued states of emergency due to the heavy rain, which caused major flooding that practically halted the New York City subway system and interrupted flight activity at Newark Liberty International Airport.  

Biden said he talked to those governors on Thursday and told them that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is ready on the ground to provide assistance as needed. He mentioned that people were trapped in the subway, but “heroic” men and women of the fire department rescued them, thanking first responders. 

The hurricane, when it made landfall in Louisiana on Sunday, left over 1 million people in the Gulf region without power and forced many to evacuate homes over the weekend.

“We’ve been monitoring this hurricane closely and the devastation it’s caused. To date, six deaths, about a million homes without power in Louisiana and Mississippi. While the catastrophic flooding wasn’t as severe as it was during Hurricane Katrina 16 years ago, Ida was so powerful that it caused the Mississippi River literally to change direction, change the flow, temporarily,” Biden said.

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“Too many people and too many areas are still unprotected and saw a storm surge flooding that was devastating,” he added. 

On Monday, he met virtually with Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D), Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) and leaders at the local level to assess the damage and recovery efforts.

Power was restored to some of the French Quarter in New Orleans on Wednesday, but over a million people are still without electricity in the area. 

Biden also said he approved an emergency declaration in California to order federal assistance in response to the Caldor fire late Thursday evening.