'An important first step': Texas Gov. Abbott thanks Biden for 'partial approval' of disaster request

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Sarah Elbeshbishi, USA TODAY
·3 min read
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President Joe Biden signed a major disaster declaration for Texas, the White House announced Saturday, after a winter storm left much of the state facing power and water shortages, in a move Gov. Greg Abbott characterized as only a "partial" approval of his request for federal assistance.

Abbott requested the disaster declaration Thursday, seeking individual and public assistance for all 254 counties in Texas. Though Biden approved public assistance for all those counties, his declaration provides individual assistance for 77 of them, according to a press release from Abbott’s office.

Individual assistance is given directly to residents who "sustained losses due to disasters," while public assistance can be used to repair or replace public facilities or infrastructure damaged or destroyed by a disaster, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"I thank President Biden for his assistance as we respond to impacts of winter weather across our state. While this partial approval is an important first step, Texas will continue to work with our federal partners to ensure all eligible Texans have access to the relief they need," Abbott said in the release. "The funds provided under the Major Disaster Declaration may provide crucial assistance to Texans as they begin to repair their homes and address property damage."

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The federal disaster assistance approved by the disaster declaration includes grants for temporary housing, home repairs, loans to repair property damage caused by the storm and additional programs for individuals and business owners affected by the weather, according to a White House press release.

The White House release says the federal aid is available to individuals in 77 Texas counties, including Dallas, as well as local governments and some nonprofit organizations for "emergency protective measures and hazard mitigation measures statewide."

Biden had said Friday that he planned to declare the situation in Texas a "major disaster." The president also said he plans to visit the state next week, but he left the date open saying he would go when his presence would not create an additional "burden."

"When the president lands in a city in America it has a long tail," Biden explained.

The federal aid ordered by Biden's disaster declaration is in addition to the supplies the Federal Emergency Management Agency previously sent to Texas after the state experienced widespread power outages due to the storm. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that the agency was sending supplies to Texas including power generators, diesel fuel, water and blankets.

The president said Friday that he directed several federal agencies including Health and Human Services and the departments of Defense and House and Urban Development to "identity other resources that can provide and address the growing needs of the folk in Texas."

Contributing: Joey Garrison

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott thanks Biden for 'partial' disaster declaration