President Joe Biden approved a federal disaster declaration for Texas late Friday, a response to the frigid winter conditions that forced millions of people across the state to struggle to stay warm with no access to power and strained access to water and food.
Through the order, the federal government will begin supplementing “state and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by severe winter storms,” including through assistance to individuals in certain counties and emergency protective public assistance.
From the White House:
Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.
Federal funding is also available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency protective measures and hazard mitigation measures statewide.
While every Texas county will be given access to emergency protective assistance, only 77 of the state’s 254 counties will be allowed to access individual-based relief assistance. Governor Gregg Abbott (R-TX) originally requested individual assistance and public assistance for every Texas county, a request that was partially approved by the order.
“I thank President Biden for his assistance as we respond to impacts of winter weather,” said Abbott in a statement. “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. 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.”
Tiffany Young, a spokesperson for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, told CNN on Friday that 14.9 million Texans had disrupted water service. Many Texans, including residents in Austin, the state capital, were placed under boil water advisories, and others in the state had water service interrupted by bursting pipes.
Food access has also been a problem for various reasons, including grocery stores closing early due to supply chain concerns or lack of stock.
“Getting food and gasoline has been difficult,” Lyndsey McDonald Garza, a resident of a Houston suburb, told Bloomberg News for an article published Friday morning. “Grocery stores are either not open or only open for [a] small window of time. We’ve been going to the convenience store because it’s the only option.”
While some restaurants were forced to toss out food that expired during the sudden weather-related closures, others, such as the original Dickey’s Barbecue Pit location in Dallas, reportedly managed to donate it before it went bad. “With the understanding that our food is no good to anyone if it’s spoiled and these heroes need it most, I encourage anyone who is able to do the same,” CEO Laura Rea Dickey told Bloomberg News.
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