As the death toll continues to rise from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Ian, President Joe Biden on Wednesday visited several storm-ravaged communities in Florida to meet with survivors and thank first responders working tirelessly on the ground.
“We’ve got a long road ahead of us,” said Biden. “I want the people of Florida to know that you’ve got my commitment. You’ve got America’s commitment.”
While the storm made landfall in several states, including the Carolinas, the worst of Ian’s damage overwhelmingly hit Florida, where most of the death toll has been recorded. (The current count stands at least 109; 105 of those were in Florida.) As of Wednesday, nearly 300,000 households are still without power. Low-income residents and communities of color have been hit especially hard.
In the lead up to Biden’s visit, much of the media attention has centered around the president’s meeting with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. After all, the far-right MAGA aficionado and potential GOP presidential candidate—who as a freshman congressman opposed a federal plan for Hurricane Sandy aid—has called Biden every name in the book, from “American Nero” to “President Brandon.”
“This is not about anything having to do with our disagreements politically,” said Biden after a briefing. “This is about saving people’s lives, homes, and businesses. That’s what this is about.”
To his credit, DeSantis also appeared to largely pause his attacks against the Biden administration. Those attacks in recent weeks have taken the form of an especially cruel campaign to send migrants to traditionally Democratic communities. But even as the Florida governor thanked the Biden administration in the wake of Ian—including appearing on Fox News to praise the president’s relief efforts—DeSantis hasn’t exactly declined to take political shots.
Here he is in a video published by Florida’s Voice, in which DeSantis accuses the “national regime media” of incorrectly predicting the brunt of the storm would hit Tampa because they thought that “would be worse for Florida.”
At the press conference with Biden, DeSantis did say that he was fortunate to have had good coordination with the White House and FEMA from the very beginning, and he thanked Biden for his help. DeSantis also said that he’s deployed thousands of linemen to help restore power across the state, and he detailed the state’s restoration plan for the collapsed Sanibel Causeway.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do here,” said DeSantis. “But the spirit in this state, in Southwest Florida, has been phenomenal.”
Last week, Biden announced that the federal government will be providing Floridians who have little or no insurance with two installments of $37,900 for home repairs and property loss. He also said that the federal government will cover 100 percent of the costs to clear the debris and will cover the majority of the public building repair costs.