Biden has been briefed on Hurricane Fiona and is pledging 100% federal funding for debris removal, rescue operations and power restoration


President Joe Biden participated in a Thursday afternoon briefing on the situation in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona and announced that he was authorizing 100% federal funding for debris removal, search and the rescue and restoration of electricity following the storm.

During the briefing, which took place at FEMA’s Region 2 office at One World Trade in New York, Biden said he wanted to “make sure the people of Puerto Rico have everything, everything they can need,” adding, “We’re with you. We’re not going to go away. We mean it.

“We are all in the same boat,” he added. “We don’t see this as a distant problem.”

Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi and other Puerto Rican officials participated in the briefing virtually. Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell briefed the president in person, with New York Governor Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams also in attendance. Biden was in town this week to attend the United Nations General Assembly and other events.

The President also thanked the first responders, noting the trauma they experience and the challenges posed by so many disasters over the past five years.

The meeting comes as Fiona – the first major hurricane of this year’s Atlantic season which is currently a Category 4 – continues to move north towards Bermuda. It is expected that he will eventually move to Canada.

The hurricane watch for Bermuda has been upgraded to a hurricane warning. And Canadian forecasters say Fiona is likely to be Canada’s strongest storm, warning it could be Canada’s version of Hurricane Sandy, which hit the northeast coast of the United States in 2012.

The storm killed at least five people in the Caribbean: one in Guadeloupe, two in Puerto Rico and two in the Dominican Republic.

Hurricane Fiona comes almost exactly five years after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, a storm that caused a prolonged power outage across the island and lasting damage to infrastructure.

As of Thursday, 495,000 – or 38% – of customers have power in Puerto Rico, according to LUMA Energy, which operates the island’s power grid. Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority executive chairman Doriel Pagán Crespo said Thursday that 890,000 customers, or 67% of all users, now have running water.

On Wednesday, Puerto Rico Housing Secretary William Rodriguez said in a video that more than 800 people are currently in shelters with about 40 shelters spread across the island.

The president on Wednesday approved a major disaster declaration for the island, directing federal assistance for local recovery efforts in areas affected by Hurricane Fiona.

The move allows residents to access grants for temporary housing and home repairs, as well as low-interest loans to cover uninsured property losses.

Adams also deployed personnel from municipal agencies to Puerto Rico to help officials assess the damage.

Pierluisi joined Criswell to survey storm damage during an aerial tour of Puerto Rico on Wednesday. The governor had said Wednesday before the tour that he expected to speak with the president this week.

Forecast models also show that a developing storm system called Hermine could pose a threat to the Gulf Coast by next week.


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