Biden: Federal Government Will Pay for Debris Removal, Rebuilding Schools, Fire Stations, Other Public Property

Susan Jones | September 30, 2022 | 5:24am EDT
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An aerial picture taken on September 29, 2022 shows the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP via Getty Images)
An aerial picture taken on September 29, 2022 shows the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - Speaking at FEMA headquarters in Washington on Thursday, President Biden said he knows many Florida families are hurting, and he promised, "We’re going to pull together as one team, as one America."

Biden said he's offered the "fullest federal support" to Florida, and that will amount to billions of dollars: at a time when the United States economy faces significant challenges from inflation and supply chain issues.

"Early this morning, I approved the governor’s most recent request for an expedited major disaster declaration," Biden said:

"That means the federal government will cover 100 percent of the cost to clear debris and for all the costs that the state has to do — has to engage in and expend to save lives. The federal government will also cover the majority of the cost to rebuilding public buildings like schools and state fire stations.

"And folks in Florida who have destroyed or damaged homes — if you don’t have enough insurance, it means the federal government will provide individual assistance of [up to] $37,900 for home repairs, another $37,900 for lost property — everything from an automobile to a lost wedding ring.  And that’s what we mean by 'lost property.'

"I’ve also spoken with mayors across the state, both Republican and Democrat.  And I’ve told them the same thing: We are here, whether you need — and whatever you need, I indicated to call me directly at the White House.  They know how to do that.  And we’re going to do everything we can to provide whatever they need."

Biden spoke even before Hurricane Ian had finished pounding Florida with flooding rain -- on its way to batter the Carolinas at hurricane strength.

"And while we’re seeing the devastating images in Florida, I want to be clear," Biden said: "To the people of Puerto Rico, we’re not gone away; I am committed to you and the recovery of the island. We’ll stand by you for however long it takes to get it done."

Can we afford it?

"This looks like a multi-billion-dollar storm," Fox News's Neil Cavuto noted on Thursday. He asked John Kirby, the administration's strategic communications coordinator, for his opinion on the cost -- and the government's ability to cover the huge cost:

"It's difficult right now, Neil, to estimate exactly how much is going to be required from the federal government, certainly from state and local governments as well, in terms of financing," Kirby said:

"But you heard the president. We're going to stick with the people of Florida. We're going to do everything that we can. And resources are not going to be the long pole in the tent.

"The other thing that we're doing is working very closely with -- inside the inter-agency, FEMA, DOD, as well is the DHS, the Coast Guard particularly, with state and local authorities to make sure that they have the help they need in terms of manpower and equipment now.

"And so you have got thousands of Coast Guards men and women that are that are already conducting rescues. You have more than almost 5,000 National Guard troops from four different states, one of which is, of course, Florida, on the ground right now that are conducting rescues and trying to do clearing operations.

"So, there is a lot of resources being applied. And, as President Biden said, Neil, if there's more that's required, the United States government will do that."

Cavuto noted the "reality" that "money's tight in Washington," as interest rates go up to combat inflation.

(The crisis in Florida comes after a Democrat spending binge and amid billions of dollars continuing to flow to Ukraine.)

Cavuto asked Kirby, "So, is it, in your eyes, an environment where we can afford what we're doing, that this is such a problem now, and maybe a $40 billion problem for property, casualty insurers and the like, that the government is going to have to do more, but it doesn't have the money to do more?"

"I don't know that we can afford to not do what we have to do to help Florida get back on its feet," Kirby said.

"I mean, Florida is a huge economic driver, from tourism, to seafood, to high tech. You name it, the sector, Florida's involved. It's a very important state economically. And I just don't know that we can afford not to do what is required to help Florida get back up on its feet.

"The president's committed to that, and we will stay at it."

Boats damaged by Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers, Florida, on September 29, 2022. (Photo by GIORGIO VIERA/AFP via Getty Images)
Boats damaged by Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers, Florida, on September 29, 2022. (Photo by GIORGIO VIERA/AFP via Getty Images)
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