President Joe Biden touched down in Santa Clara County just before noon, toured the wreckage in Watsonville, Santa Cruz, and Capitola, and announced more relief funds in a speech that’s already posted online.
We’re now three weeks into what has become a parade of nine atmospheric river storms, and California has suffered at least 21 known deaths (plus the still-missing five-year-old boy believed to have been swept away in the Paso Robles floods). Some 150,000 Californians have been under evacuation orders this month, and as many as 200,000 customers have lost power. That’s why President Biden announced this week he would be touring the area to assess damage, with the visit scheduled for today.
President Joe Biden is greeted by Gavin Newsom, Anna Eshoo and Alex Padilla as he exits Air Force One before heading to Santa Cruz County to assess storm damage @sfchronicle pic.twitter.com/eJyHtnONAe— Jessica Christian (@jachristian) January 19, 2023
As seen above, he arrived at Moffett Federal Airfield in Mountain View at 11:45 a.m. Thursday. Per NBC Bay Area, “He was greeted by Gov. Newsom, Sen. Alex Padilla, Reps Anna Eshoo and Jimmy Panetta.”
I’m here in Santa Cruz County for President Joe Biden’s visit to assess storm damage.— Maggie Angst (@MaggieAngst) January 19, 2023
Here’s the view outside of Seacliff State Beach, with hundreds of residents waiting to catch a glimpse of the motorcade. pic.twitter.com/tsHBJuTvUy
From there, he boarded the helicopter Marine One for an aerial survey of Santa Cruz County. The copter reportedly touched down at Watsonville Municipal Airport at about 1:18 p.m., and plenty of Santa Cruz County residents posted photos of the presidential helicopter flying overhead.
Biden then proceeded to Capitola, where giant waves have smashed piers to bits, and flooded restaurants have been closed for more than a week. Did he get some ice cream? He loves to get some ice cream. We don’t yet know exactly every business he visited, but according to Twitter photographer Native Santa Cruz, he did visit Capitola’s Paradise Beach Grille.
From there it was off to Seacliff State Beach, where Biden gave a speech captured in the Youtube video above (in true government Youtube channel fashion, the video is dead air for the first 25:04). Governor Gavin Newsom — who wore jeans on the day the President of the United States came to town — gives his gravel-voiced remarks between 25- and 30-minute marks. Biden gives his 11-minute speech between the 30- and 41-minute marks.
“They got more rainfall in a single day than they get in the entire year, parts of this state,” Biden said Thursday. “While the situation is still treacherous, we’re cautiously optimistic that the worst part is behind.”
And naturally, Biden did announce more FEMA relief funding. “Yesterday I directed that the federal government will cover 100% of the cost of removing debris, and emergency measures like moving evacuees, and paying overtime for first responders for 60 days,” Biden said.
The previous reimbursement rate was 75%, so that is an increase. But the details may not be as generous as they sound. According to FEMA, “the federal share increased to 100% of the total eligible costs for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance under the Public Assistance program, for 60 days from the start of the incident period.” That may not cover all storm damage, but if you or your business have suffered damage, FEMA does have an online tool to check your eligibility for relief reimbursement.
Biden also took one only question from the press, which is not audible in the above video, but of course that was about the classified documents flap, and not the storms. He dismissed the question, saying “There’s no ‘there’ there.”
Screenshot: The White House via Youtube