US President Joe Biden has approved federal disaster funding for nine Florida counties in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, the White House announced Thursday, adding that more areas could receive funding later as officials assess the damage after the storm.
“Damage assessments continue in other areas, and additional areas may be designated for assistance once assessments are fully completed,” the White House said in a statement ahead of Biden’s visit to Washington headquarters. FEMA later Thursday for a storm update briefing.
The measure allows access to federal grants to help affected residents and business owners obtain temporary housing, repair homes, obtain low-cost loans for uninsured property losses and get back on their feet, he said.
It also allows local governments and other groups to share the costs of debris removal, according to the White House.
The funds were designated for Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota counties.
FEMA’s chief said Thursday that damage from the Category 4 storm was “catastrophic.”
The cost to repair and rebuild homes from storm damage could cost as much as $260 billion, according to property experts CoreLogic.
Downgraded to a tropical storm, Ian is making its way across Florida, leaving a devastating trail of destruction in its wake as dozens remain trapped in flooded homes and two million are without power.
The formidable hurricane made landfall with catastrophic force Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 storm, packing sustained winds of 150 mph and leveling homes with an 18-foot wall of water in some areas.
Cleanup efforts won’t begin for a while, as much of Florida remains underwater.
Fire crews and police officers have been inundated with calls from people trapped in flooded homes.
Others are posting pleas on social media for themselves or loved ones to be rescued after choosing to ride out the storm at home rather than listen to Governor Ron DeSantis and FEMA’s evacuation orders.
Rescue teams have so far been unable to reach those calling for help due to fierce winds and flooding, according to the Republican governor.