Biden and First Lady Jill Biden touched down in Florida just after 12:30 p.m., where they will visit Fort Myers, one of the state’s most severely damaged areas. There, Biden will meet with the Republican governor, a frequent political foe of his and the first lady’s Jill Biden Estimation of Ion Stormdamage of Fort Myers.
According to White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre, Biden will meet with small business owners and local residents and thank officials who are providing life-saving assistance, restoring power and clearing debris.
“Gov. DeSantis, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell and other state and local officials will provide the president with an operational briefing on current response and recovery efforts,” Jean-Pierre told reporters.
On Air Force One on Wednesday, Jean-Pierre spent the day with Biden, along with Republican Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, GOP Rep. Byron Daniels and Lee County President Cecil Pendergrass and Fort Myers Mayor Ray Murphy will attend, he said.
Ahead of the visit, the White House said Biden would announce a doubling of the amount of time the federal government will cover all costs associated with search and rescue, debris removal, shelter and other emergency operations from 30 days to 60 days.
Last week, the government had sought an extension of aid to Desantis.
Jean-Pierre deflected when asked if DeSantis would join Biden for any public comments, saying the governor has a “busy schedule” and she couldn’t speak to “where he’s going to be every step of the way.”
Wednesday’s visit will be the first face-to-face meeting between Biden and DeSantis since the governor ordered to send immigrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, a “political stunt” Jean-Pierre has repeatedly slammed.
“Obviously the president expressed his concerns and anger through the stunt,” he said, adding: “There will be plenty of time to discuss the differences between the president and the governor, but now is not the time.”
Biden and DeSantis have briefly put politics aside to respond to Hurricane Ian, which is shaping up to be one of Florida’s deadliest and costliest storms in decades. Making landfall as a Category 4 storm, Ian flattened the coast and knocked out power for millions. 100 people died due to the storm.
Presidents Biden and DeSantis spoke several times before and after the storm hit, with Biden issuing emergency declarations. On Saturday, Biden signed a major disaster declaration for the state, which provides more funding to help Florida recover.
“As I’ve made clear: In times like these, our nation comes together, puts aside our political differences, and gets to work,” Biden said Monday, speaking about his upcoming trip. “We show up when we’re needed. Because we believe that if we lose our home, if we lose a loved one, people will come for us.”
DeSantis said he appreciated “FEMA’s response to this disaster” and thanked the Biden administration for its emergency declarations.
The Florida trip comes days after Biden traveled to Puerto Rico, which was hit by Hurricane Fiona last month.
A Category 1 storm hit the island on September 18, knocking out power to most residents of the U.S. territory and killing at least 13 people. By Biden’s visit, more than two weeks into the storm, more than 100,000 people were still without power.
During his visit to Port of Ponce, on the southern tip of Puerto Rico, Biden announced more than $60 million in federal funding to help the island better prepare for extreme weather events following Hurricane Fiona.
“Puerto Rico is a strong place, and Puerto Ricans are strong people,” Biden said as he spoke in Ponce Harbor. “But even then, you had to endure more and more than you needed, and you didn’t get help in time.”
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