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Biden vows federal aid in response to 'still very dangerous' Hurricane Idalia

The president also pledged robust federal assistance as Maui, Hawaii, begins to rebuild after deadly wildfires.
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the federal government will play a key role in assisting states affected by Hurricane Idalia after the life-threatening storm made landfall Wednesday morning in Florida.

In remarks at the White House, Biden said residents in the Southeast should remain vigilant as Idalia makes its way through Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

"It’s still very dangerous with winds up to 75 miles an hour. And the impacts of the storm are being felt throughout the Southeast, even as it moves up the eastern coast of the United States," he said. "We have to remain vigilant, and there’s much more to do.”

Biden said he had spoken with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and that he had directed Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell to fly there and meet with the governor.

He also talked about clean-up efforts in Maui, Hawaii, after the recent deadly wildfires, saying he was about to meet behind closed doors with his Cabinet to discuss the federal response to the devastating wildfires, which killed at least 115 people, making them the deadliest in modern U.S. history.

Biden said he has directed his team to do everything it can to help Maui recover and rebuild “in a way that respects and honors Hawaiian traditions and cultures and the needs of the local community.”

“We’re not going to turn this into a new land grab,” he said. “We’re not going to see multimillion-dollar homes on the beach. We want to restore that part of the island like it was before, only better.”

He also discussed climate change and his administration's policies to mitigate its effects.

"I don’t think anybody can deny the impact of a climate crisis anymore. Just look around: Historic floods, major historic floods, more intense droughts, extreme heat, significant wildfires have caused significant damage like we’ve never seen before. It’s not only throughout the Hawaiian Islands and the United States, but in Canada and other parts of the world," Biden said.

He announced that the Energy Department is providing $95 million through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for Hawaii’s electric grid to improve service and help prevent failures that could lead to severe damage.

Biden acknowledged that the people of Maui lost everything and said the federal government is trying to "move heaven and Earth" to help residents. He warned that the work "is going to take time, in some cases a long time."

"The one thing I can tell you is that we’re going to be with you every step of the way. We’re not walking away," he said. "I said when I was on the island last week we’re not leaving until the job’s done. And we’ll be there as long as it takes."

Biden toured Lahaina last week, surveying the charred town where hundreds of people are still missing. During his visit, he vowed that the federal government would do all it can to help with the recovery.

The week after Biden visited Maui, he was on the phone Monday with DeSantis, telling him that he had quickly approved an emergency declaration for the state amid preparations for Idalia, the White House said. FEMA's National Response Coordination Center is also fully activated to support requests for federal assistance.

DeSantis has activated the National Guard and said the state had resources ready to respond throughout Florida, addressing power needs and threats to residents. He said this week that Florida was ready with 1.1 million gallons of fuel and almost 30,000 workers who would help restore power.

Biden also mentioned the call with DeSantis to reporters Tuesday as he hosted Costa Rican President Rodrigo Chaves Robles in the Oval Office for a bilateral meeting.

“I spoke with the governor last night. We’re providing everything that he possibly needs,” Biden said.