The White House announced on Tuesday that President Joe Biden would be visiting the Central Coast on Thursday to visit areas affected by the numerous storms which have battered California continuously for over three weeks.
Since late December, record rain and snowfall has besieged the state, responsible for at least 20 deaths, destruction all over California, and entire communities to be evacuated. As a result, in addition to local responses, both the state and federal governments have continued to give support for weeks to help rescue and recovery efforts.
On the state level, Governor Newsom issued a state of emergency over the storms earlier this month, mobilizing California agencies, including the California National Guard and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES). An executive order signed yesterday added even more additions for state recovery efforts.
On the federal level, President Biden has also released several declarations. The first, released on January 9th, was a Presidential Emergency Declaration prompted by a letter from Governor Newsom asking for assistance, which gave gave more federal resources for disaster relief and emergency services in preparation for additional damage and rescue needs with FEMA being the point agency to do so. This was upgraded over the weekend, with President Biden signing a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration, which ordered “more Federal aid to supplement State, tribal, and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by severe winter storms, flooding, landslides, and mudslides”. Merced, Sacramento, and Santa Cruz counties were specifically named for some efforts, as they have been the hardest hit by the storms to date.
“The President’s action makes Federal funding available to affected individuals in the counties of Merced, Sacramento, and Santa Cruz,” the Presidential order said. “Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster. Federal funding also is available to State, tribal, and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work in the counties of Merced, Sacramento, and Santa Cruz. Lastly, Federal funding is available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.”
Presidential visit to the Central Coast
On Tuesday, Biden then announced a Presidential visit to the hard hit Central Coast region. While it is currently unknown the exact places that Biden will visit, a White House Press release said that he would be meeting first responders, visiting towns affected by the storms, and assess what other federal support is needed in the state. The visit is expected to take less than a day, with Biden likely not extending to trip to visit the Northern and Southern parts of the state. It is also unknown if Biden will announce further funding and aid for the state while on his visit.
“The storms hit California bad enough to warrant a presidential visit,” Paula Caldwell, a former press officer for a group representing first responders, told the the Globe on Tuesday. “Natural disasters usually have to be pretty bad for that to happen, and California’s warranted it.”
“Usually with a presidential visit there are other motivations going on as well, but we won’t know what exactly what, if any, they are until Thursday when we see where and who he visits. His approval rating is currently 43.9%, which is his highest it has been since November of 2021, so the first instinct is to bolster that. And that means talking with police, fire, EMS, search and rescue – pretty much everyone you can label a hero in this event. And look what’s on the agenda!”
“He’ll also likely give a standard recovery speech at lease a few times. Expect to hear a lot of buzzwords from him, enough that you can make a bingo card full of them and have a decent chance of winning a few times. What people should be looking for is talk of additional recovery funds and more help from FEMA. California is going to need a lot to rebuild, and since they pay in so much for federal taxes, they deserve to get that kind of help back when they need it. But we’ll see.”
It is currently unknown if Biden will meet with Governor Newsom and other state officials during his brief visit.
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