Biden visits hurricane-devastated Florida

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

Biden met with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, one of his most prominent Republican critics, after the hurricane to coordinate recovery efforts. Biden said in his remarks Wednesday that he and DeSantis have “one job and one job only” which is “to make sure the people of Florida get everything they need to make a full and thorough recovery.”

Biden vowed to put politics aside, saying 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’m really serious, America is coming together.”

Hurricane Ian has confirmed that at least 84 people have died, including 75 in Florida, while hundreds of thousands wait for power to be restored.

Biden planned to meet with residents and small business owners in Fort Myers, Fla. on Wednesday and thank government officials for providing emergency relief and clearing debris. He will spend most of his time in some of the areas hardest hit by the hurricane.

The trip is divided into three parts. First, Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will take a helicopter tour of the area where they will survey the damage in Fort Myers, specifically from above just to see all of the damage there.

Once they land, they will meet with local, state, and federal officials, including FEMA Director Deanne Criswell and DeSantis. The President will also be meeting with 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 returning to the White House, Biden will conclude his trip with remarks. White House sources told NewsNation that his comments will be a confirmation of the White House’s commitment to continue providing Florida with the level of assistance and resources it needs to recover.

But many Florida residents are still without electricity and without access to 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 impede rescue efforts.

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

Biden and DeSantis have put politics aside and worked well together, but their meeting today will draw plenty of attention to see how the two will work together just weeks before the midterm elections.

Biden and DeSantis have had a variety of disagreements over the past few years over how to fight COVID-19, immigration policy, and more. In recent weeks, they have been at odds over the governor’s decision to take migrants to Democrat strongholds on planes or buses, a practice Biden has called “reckless.”

DeSantis has shown control over the details of the hurricane’s progress and recovery, what FEMA gives to specific areas, and what’s happening on the ground.

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

DeSantis confirmed Tuesday that he would meet with Biden in the hurricane zone, and he commended the government’s Federal Emergency Management Agency for declaring an emergency before Ian landed.

“It 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 has worked very well with the state and local communities.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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