SHARKEY COUNTY, Mississippi (WJTV) – President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden visited Rolling Fork, Mississippi on Friday, March 31.
They visited first responders, state and local officials, and communities affected by the March 24 tornado devastation.
During the visit, Biden vowed the feds “won’t leave” until the region is back on its feet.
Rolling Fork was hit by an EF4 tornado, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). The storm destroyed approximately 300 homes and businesses in Rolling Fork and Silver City.
Hundreds of additional structures were badly damaged. The death toll in Mississippi stood at 21, based on deaths confirmed by coroners.
In the close-knit community of Rolling Fork, Biden read aloud the names of each of the 13 small-town residents killed in the storm after visiting the wreckage. He acknowledged to residents that the road to recovery will be long and difficult, but said he was determined to help them through this ordeal.
“We’re not just here for today,” Biden said, standing near an animal shelter and hardware store reduced to rubble by the powerful storm as he addressed members of the devastated community. . “We will do it for you. We’ll make sure you can stay here.
Watch Biden’s full remarks below.
From Marine One, as they flew from Jackson to the area hardest hit by last week’s storm, President and First Lady Jill Biden got a view of the devastation on acres of farmland – homes destroyed, overturned trees and heaps of debris.
Later, as the presidential motorcade traveled down a long dirt road through miles of farmland, passing modest homes flattened by the tornado. Children’s bicycles, soggy clothes, broken furniture and splinters of wood were piled up in piles where houses once stood.
“It’s a tough thing,” Biden said as he was greeted by state, local and federal officials after arriving in Rolling Fork. “The most important thing is that we need to let people know why they have hope, especially those who have lost someone.”
Biden announced that the federal government will cover the full cost of state emergency measures for the next 30 days, including overtime for first responders and debris cleanup. Additionally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will open disaster recovery centers in storm-ravaged counties to help residents access resources.
The Bidens also met with storm-affected residents and first responders, and received an operational briefing from federal and state officials.
The White House has approved Governor Tate Reeves’ request for individual and public assistance for counties affected by tornadoes and severe weather. The governor said Thursday he plans to meet with President Biden during his trip to Mississippi.
Individual assistance is available for residents of these four counties and may include grants for temporary housing, home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners to recover from the effects of this disaster.
Residents of Carroll, Humphreys, Monroe and Sharkey who suffered losses during the March 24 inclement weather can now apply for assistance by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621- FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hard of hearing and hard of hearing.
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said some of the damage to the area’s infrastructure will take a long time to repair and the administration will help rebuild key facilities so they’re “stronger” to withstand. future natural disasters.
“We know these communities might be strapped for money and we want to get that funding,” Criswell added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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