Biden Ups Federal Funds for Kentucky Disaster Relief

By Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino covers the White House.
December 15, 2021 Updated: December 15, 2021

President Joe Biden took an aerial tour over parts of Kentucky Wednesday morning to assess storm damage from deadly weekend tornadoes, and later in the day approved the federal government covering the entire cost for cleanup.

Over the weekend, Biden approved Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s request for a major disaster declaration, making federal funding available for the state, and on Monday approved disaster declarations for Tennessee and Illinois as well.

On Wednesday, Dec. 15, Biden upped the funds to Kentucky from 75 percent to 100 percent of the cleanup cost over the following 30 days.

When reporters asked if more money is needed from Congress, Biden said, “We don’t need it now.”

“It’s incredible how ya’ll have stepped up,” the president said Wednesday during an address in Dawson Springs, Kentucky. “I’m going make sure the federal government steps up and that we do every single thing.”

More than 30 tornadoes tore through Kentucky and seven other states over the course of Friday and Saturday, killing at least 88 people, including 74 in Kentucky, and leaving thousands more without a home or without power.

“There’s no red tornadoes, there’s no blue tornadoes,” Biden said at a briefing in Mayfield, Kentucky, the city where the storm hit a candle factory with more than 100 employees still inside the building at the time the tornado struck.

Joining the president in the helicopter tour were Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, federal disaster agency head Deanne Criswell, and Gov. Beshear viewing the snapped tree trunks and wrecked homes.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has sent 61 generators, 144,000 liters (38,000 gallons) of water, 74,000 meals, 18,500 blankets, 5,100 cots, and 1,500 tarps. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers personnel are providing debris removal, infrastructure assessment, and power restoration support.

A wireless emergency communications center has been activated at the candle factory site for charging and Internet service.

In February, Biden went to Houston to survey winter storm damage. He was in Idaho, Colorado, and California to survey wildfire damage during the summer. And Biden went to Louisiana as well as New Jersey and New York in September, after Hurricane Ida struck.

The president has repeatedly used these disasters to make the case for his legislative agenda, blaming climate change and noting $99 billion in losses this year.

Biden’s $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, signed into law last month, includes billions for climate-related projects meant to better defend from future storms. His proposed $2 trillion “Build Back Better” social spending package, still pending in Congress, also includes billions meant to move away from fossil fuels and toward widespread wind and solar energy and electric vehicle use.

Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino covers the White House.