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FEMA administrator says agency will support ‘everybody’ after Republicans attack Harris equity remark

FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell
Greg Nash
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell addresses reporters during the daily briefing at the White House on Wednesday, September 27, 2022.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Deanne Criswell on Sunday responded to Republicans criticizing Vice President Harris for a remark she made stressing equity in the administration’s response to climate change.

On Friday, Priyanka Chopra Jonas asked Harris at a Democratic National Committee event about the Biden administration’s goals as a global influencer on climate policy when it comes to poorer countries.

“It is our lowest-income communities and our communities of color that are most impacted by these extreme conditions and impacted by issues that are not of their own making,” Harris said. “And so we have to address this in a way that is about giving resources based on equity.”

Some Republicans have tied her remark to the federal government’s response to Hurricane Ian. On Sunday, “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan asked Criswell to respond to the attacks after Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) mentioned the remark earlier in the CBS show.

“We’re going to support all communities,” Criswell said. “I committed that to the governor, I commit to you right here that all Floridians are going to be able to get the help that is available to them through our programs.”

The FEMA chief’s comments came after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) reelection campaign’s rapid response director said Harris’s comment is causing “undue panic” and urged her to clarify.

Criswell on Sunday also indicated she agreed with Harris’s comment but stressed it did not mean the agency would preclude non-minorities from receiving assistance.

“One of the things that I have known and I have experienced responding to other disasters is that there are people that often have a hard time accessing our programs, there’s barriers to our program,” Criswell said. 

“And one of our focus areas since I’ve been in office is to make sure that we’re removing those barriers,” she continued. “So, these people that need our help the most are going to be able to access the help that we offer. I know that the vice president and the president, they share the same values.”

The Hill has reached out to the vice president’s office for comment.

Hurricane Ian, which made landfall in Florida on Wednesday, dealt widespread damages to the state and killed at least 47 Floridians. 

Areas near Fort Myers, Fla., where Ian hit as a Category 4 storm, experienced some of the worst losses. Hundreds of thousands of residents remain without power as of Sunday.

Tags Deanne Criswell Deanne Criswell Federal Emergency Management Agency Hurricane Ian Kamala Harris Rick Scott

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