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President Joe Biden speaks at Seacliff State Beach on January 19, 2023 (Photo gov.ca.gov)

President Biden Visits Storm Battered Santa Clara, Santa Cruz Counties

‘He was underwhelming; he didn’t get it’

By Evan Symon, January 20, 2023 2:30 am

President Joe Biden visited California on Thursday, looking over storm destruction in Santa Clara County and Santa Cruz County, as well as visiting towns affected by the storm with Governor Gavin Newsom and Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA)

The Biden administration recently announced the trip on Tuesday, catching clear weather after weeks of heavy rainfall. Record rain and snowfall sparked numerous floods, landslides, road bucklings, and other damage across the state, including causing at least 20 deaths and causing local, state, and federal assistance to be ramped up. President Biden himself issued 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. On Wednesday, the White House added three more counties to the latter declaration, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and San Joaquin. In addition, FEMA and the President also announced a 100% federal cost share for Categories A (debris removal) and B (emergency protective measures) for affected areas.

This led to Biden visiting on Thursday. Arriving in the morning from Washington, D.C., Biden travelled with Governor Newsom aboard Marine One over hard hit areas of Santa Clara County and Santa Cruz County. Once back on the ground, they travelled to Capitola, met with business owners and first responders, then went to Seacliff State Beach for a press conference.

“You don’t feel it until you walk the streets,” said Biden on Thursday. “If anybody doubts the climate is changing, they must have been asleep for the last couple of years. We know some of the destruction is going to take years to rebuild. But we’ve got to not just rebuild, but rebuild better.”

Newsom also added, “Over the past weeks, Californians have endured some of the deadliest and most destructive storms in recent memory, but our strength, resilience, and instinct to help in times of crisis has never faltered. And President Biden and his Administration have been supporting us every step of the way – and I am grateful for the President’s commitment to helping California recover.”

Locals have mixed feelings over Biden visit

While a standard natural disaster visit by a President, the visit on Thursday left many locals with mixed feelings.

“I can see that he is trying to make things better, but we don’t need him here to do that,” noted Capitola resident Jennifer Cole to the Globe on Thursday. “We all saw him today, but besides talking to a few people, all he did was walk around and make a speech. A President presence is supposed to make people feel better, but it just left everyone saying ‘That was it?’, including many people who voted for him.

“What we really need is that FEMA funding and other assistance. That’s what we really need. We’re starting to get it, and he wasn’t wrong when he said that we need to build back better, but we need help now, not a President tying up relief efforts for the day with him walking around and blocking off streets due to security.”

Ethan Helms, another Capitola resident and Biden supporter, noted the same sentiment.

“He was underwhelming, and some first responders and people on cleanup were actually upset he was here because they couldn’t easily get to areas around he was at today. He was actually the first President I ever saw in person, and it wasn’t as grand as I thought. When he mentioned more relief heading our way, it got the most cheers, and I think he didn’t expect that, because at other parts where he was obviously expecting applause, he didn’t get it.”

“He did his job and approved our emergency funding, but I’m not really sure what his visit accomplished besides being in front of the cameras with Newsom.”

More relief for Counties affected by the storms is expected to come in in the near future.

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