WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden visited Kentucky on Wednesday to tour the damage caused by tornadoes that ripped through the state and several others over the weekend, pledging continued federal support for the state's recovery.
“I intend to do whatever it takes, as long as it takes, as long as it takes, to support your state and your local leaders as you recover and rebuild, because you will recover and you will rebuild,” Biden said after visiting the massive rumble remains of the town of Dawson Springs.
In addition to providing disaster recovery assistance, Biden said the federal government would cover the costs of the first 30 days of Kentucky’s rescue, recovery and cleanup operations. Despite the number of unusual weather events this year that have led to billions of dollars in damage, Biden said FEMA doesn't need more money.
“I promise you, you're going to heal. We're going to recover, you’re going to rebuild, you're going to be stronger than you were before. We're going to Build Back better than it was,” Biden said.
Biden took an aerial tour of Mayfield, Kentucky, one of the communities hit hardest by the devastating storms that also left a path of destruction in Illinois, Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas. Afterward, the president received a briefing from local leaders about the impact of tornadoes and extreme weather.
Before his remarks in Dawson Springs, Biden visited a neighborhood in Mayfield where he spoke with residents sitting among piles of rumble. The local mayor, Chris Smiley, walked him past brick buildings that had been toppled.
Biden has approved a major disaster declaration for Kentucky and several other states affected by the unseasonal storms that tore through the Midwest and South.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said Tuesday that 74 people, ranging in age from 2 months to 98 years, were confirmed dead and more than 100 were unaccounted for. He said it could take a week or more to arrive at a final death toll.
The storms leveled a candle factory and entire communities in Kentucky and hit a nursing home in Arkansas as well as an Amazon distribution center in Illinois.
Biden's visit comes as his administration is pushing Congress to pass a sweeping social safety net and climate change bill at the core of the president's agenda.