Biden visits Puerto Rico after Fiona: President will announce new aid, meet victims

Biden visits Puerto Rico after Fiona: President will announce new aid, meet victims

He and the first lady are traveling to Puerto Rico and Florida this week.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will travel this week to Puerto Rico and then Florida after hurricanes ravaged the two areas.

The Bidens head to Puerto Rico on Monday to survey damage from Hurricane Fiona, which killed more than two dozen people on the island last month, officials have said. Hurricane Ian shortly after struck Florida, killing more than 70 people before moving up along the Atlantic coast and killing at least four more people in North Carolina.

While in Puerto Rico, the president and first lady will “meet with families and community leaders impacted by Hurricane Fiona” and “participate in a community service project to help pack bags with food and other essential items,” according to a White House official.

MORE: Sen. Rubio and FEMA chief on recovery from Ian's devastation: 'I don't think it has a comparison'

The president will also receive a briefing on recovery efforts, the official said — and he will announce more than $60 million in funding from last year's bipartisan infrastructure law that will “shore up levees, strengthen flood walls, and create a new flood warning system to help Puerto Rico become better prepared for future storms,” according to the official. (The federal government continues to dole out funding from last year's legislation through a variety of avenues.)

The Bidens will visit Ponce, on the south side of Puerto Rico, and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell will join them, the official said.

PHOTO: Brunilda Colaan, 79, an iconic figure in her neighborhood, stands amid hurricane damage near her house in Salinas, Puerto Rico, Sept. 23, 2022.

Brunilda Colaan, 79, an iconic figure in her neighborhood, stands amid hurricane damage near her house in Salinas, Puerto Rico, Sept. 23, 2022. El Nuevo Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Fiona lashed an already-weakened power grid in Puerto Rico in September, leaving much of the island in darkness and struggling to recover. However, Criswell said on ABC's “This Week” on Sunday that 90% of residents had since had power restored.

The president's trip comes as the damage in Florida from Ian only starts to come into view.

MORE: Sanibel Island, Fort Myers severely damaged by Hurricane Ian in Lee County

The western edge of the state was ravaged by severe flooding, leaving numerous buildings leveled or seriously damaged. Hundreds of thousands of residents were left without power. Significant flooding was also reported across the Carolinas.

Search-and-rescue efforts were ongoing as of Sunday, Criswell said on “This Week,” meaning the death toll could easily rise as more of the area is surveyed.

“Our hearts … are heavy, the devastating hurricanes, storms in Puerto Rico, Florida and South Carolina. And just know, we owe Puerto Rico a hell of a lot more than they’ve already gotten,” Biden said at a Congressional Black Caucus awards dinner Saturday, seeming to reference worries that damage from Ian would distract the federal government from the effects of Fiona on Puerto Rico.

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