Vice President Kamala Harris arrived in San Bernardino on Friday, beginning a weekend Southern California visit by touring wildfire damaged forests and announcing $600 million in disaster relief funding for the U.S. Forest Service in the state.
Harris was joined on Friday by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA), and Governor Gavin Newsom. Beginning the day by touching down in San Bernardino around 6:30 A.M., Harris and the other lawmakers proceeded to take a helicopter tour of wildfire damaged forests over the mountains of San Bernardino County. Then, during a visit to a San Bernardino firehouse where the increasing number of wildfires and increased wildfire danger in the state was highlighted, Vice President Harris and the others announced new federal funding for California.
As part of the $7 billion in wildfire funding the U.S. Government recently allocated, which includes $5 billion for risk assessment and response, $1.3 billion in disaster relief, and $600 million in wildfire fighter salaries, the U.S. Forest Service in California is to receive $600 million of the disaster relief allocation.
“The government is putting the resources where they are needed in the battle against fires and climate change,” said VP Harris on Friday in San Bernardino. “We are talking with homeowners and reaching out to communities to figure out how we can support them to create a community that is less likely to be so significantly damaged if a fire should hit.”
During the subsequent speeches, Harris was praised by those present, touting her leadership through the hard times of the last year.
“Her leadership in unmatched,” said Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack.
While the funding was welcome news to even critics of the Vice President, many noted on Friday that the visit was only partially about wildfire relief and funding, as Harris and Secretary Vilsack are due to also defend President Joe Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan, as well as help improve Harris’ sinking approval ratings, which are at 44% as of this week.
“Harris needed a win badly, so a trip out to her home state with friendlier crowds while announcing more wildfire money is a sure way to both look better and tout policy, especially slipping in the infrastructure bill,” said Tim Rincon, a former scheduler for multiple politicians, to the Globe on Friday. “For someone at her level, it’s just a softball trip to the West Coast where she gets a lot of positive face time, gives out some money, pushes the new project, and stays for a bit at her home in Brentwood in LA.”
“This trip gave her the positive press and the ‘win’ she needed. These kinds of trips are less to do with the announcements and more to do with attention and doing something good in a positive light. This is a textbook example on how to do it.”
Following the San Bernardino visit on Friday, Harris left in the afternoon to fly to Los Angeles. She is expected to stay in LA over the weekend at her Brentwood home before flying to Milwaukee on Monday.
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