President Biden declared Florida a major disaster area Thursday morning, ordering federal aid to supplement local recovery efforts in areas affected by Hurricane Ian, which hit Florida as a Category 4 storm Wednesday afternoon.
The declaration will allow federal aid to go to Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas, and Sarasota counties.
At a press conference Thursday morning in Tallahassee, however, Gov. Ron DeSantis said that he had spoken with President Biden, and hopes to have that disaster declaration expanded, because Ian’s storm trajectory is now affecting counties in central and northeast Florida.
That federal 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,” according to the press release issued by the White House.
The declaration also states that for a period of 30 days since the start of the incident period, assistance for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, is authorized at 100 percent of the total eligible costs.
That assistance comes on top of federal help that FEMA Director Deanne Criswell promised Florida at a press briefing on Wednesday. That includes pre-staging 128,000 gallons of fuel; 3.7 million meals and 3.5 liters of water; 300 ambulances and federal medical teams ready to help.
Biden said later Thursday that the federal government had been “completely responsive to the governor of Florida — everything he’s needed and asked for.”
Speaking at a Democratic Governors Association meeting in Washington, Biden added that the full consequences of the storm probably won’t be determined until sometime on Friday, in part because Ian was still dumping large amounts on the state this morning.
“We’ve sent an awful lot of people, as we pointed out,” the president said. “We’ve given…the governor every single thing he’s asked for in terms of emergency response.” Biden added that he will be meeting personally with officials from FEMA on Friday to determine what the state needs to begin the recovery efforts.