Biden: ‘It’s going to take years’ for Florida to recover

Hurricane Ian

(NewsNation) — President Joe Biden said “it’s going to take years” for Florida to “recover and rebuild” after Hurricane Ian ravaged the state last week.

Biden met with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, one of his most prominent Republican critics, in the aftermath of the hurricane to coordinate recovery efforts. Biden said in his remarks Wednesday that he and DeSantis had “one job and one job only” which was to “make sure the people of Florida get everything they need to fully and thoroughly recover.”

Biden pledged to put politics aside, saying that federal, state and local governments will work together to help rebuild homes, businesses and lives.

“This is about America coming together,” Biden said Wednesday. “And I really mean it, America coming together.”

Hurricane Ian has resulted in at least 84 people confirmed dead, including 75 in Florida, as hundreds of thousands of people wait for power to be restored.

Biden planned to meet Wednesday with residents and small business owners in Fort Myers, Florida, and to thank government officials for providing emergency aid and removing debris. He will spend most of his time in some of the areas that have been hit hardest by the hurricane.

The trip will be broken into three parts. First, Biden and first lady Jill Biden will take a helicopter tour of the area, where they’ll survey the damage in Fort Myers, specifically from overhead just to see all of the damage there.

Then, once they land, they’re going to meet with local, state and federal officials, including FEMA Director Deanne Criswell and DeSantis. The president will also meet with local residents who have lost their homes and some local business owners to see how Ian has impacted them and how the recovery effort is going.

Before heading back to the White House, Biden will conclude his trip with remarks. White House sources told NewsNation that his remarks will be an affirmation of the White House’s commitment that they are going to continue to provide aid and resources to Florida to the extent that it needs in order to recover.

But many Florida residents are still without power and are unable to access food and water.

Biden typically waits to visit the scene of a natural disaster, to ensure his presence and the fleet of vehicles that accompany him will not hinder the rescue efforts.

Before the storm hit, the president had intended to visit the Florida cities of Orlando and Fort Lauderdale last week, where he planned to stress his efforts to strengthen Social Security and Medicaid. Biden has accused Sen. Rick Scott of wanting to end both programs by proposing that federal laws should expire every five years, although the Florida senator has said he wants to preserve the programs.

Biden and DeSantis have put politics aside and they’ve worked well together, but their meeting today will draw many eyes to see how the two will act together just weeks before the midterm elections.

Biden and DeSantis have had a multitude of differences in recent years over how to fight COVID-19, immigration policy and more. In recent weeks, they tussled over the governor’s decision to put migrants on planes or buses to Democratic strongholds, a practice that Biden has called “reckless.”

DeSantis has shown command of the details of the hurricane’s progress and recovery, what FEMA is giving certain areas and what’s happening on the ground.

The hurricane changed the purpose and tone of Biden’s first trip to Florida this year.

DeSantis confirmed Tuesday he’d be meeting with Biden in the hurricane zone and he praised the administration’s Federal Emergency Management Agency for declaring an emergency before Ian made landfall.

“That was huge because everyone was full steam ahead. They knew they had the ability to do it,” DeSantis said. “We appreciate it. I think FEMA’s worked very well with the state and local.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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