Biden tours Big Bend damage days after Idalia destroys communities

President Joe Biden speaks in Live Oak about Hurricane Idalia recovery efforts
President Joe Biden speaks in Live Oak about Hurricane Idalia recovery efforts
Published: Sep. 2, 2023 at 8:19 PM EDT
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LIVE OAK, Fla. (WCTV/Gray Florida Capital Bureau) - People living in thirteen Florida counties can now apply for federal money to help rebuild after Hurricane Idalia.

FEMA added six additional counties to the disaster declaration on Saturday.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden was able to see the devastation firsthand across the Big Bend.

In Live Oak, trees still blocked some streets, blue tarps covered many roofs and every block was lined with limbs as people began to pick up the pieces.

“We’ve already taken 20 truckloads of brush off the property,” Dianna Ebersole said.

Ebersole hoped the president would take the experience and offer help.

“I hope he gives the people that need the assistance, that don’t have insurance, that he gives them that assistance, to get things fixed so we can all get on our feet again,” she said.

During his visit Saturday, President Biden promised help is on the way.

“Now the storm has passed. You’re dealing with what’s left in its wake, and we’re not going anywhere - the federal government. We’re here to help the state for as long as it takes. FEMA and the Small Business Administration are here to help residents,” Pres. Biden said.

Meanwhile, Governor Ron DeSantis announced FEMA is expanding the state’s disaster declaration to 13 counties.

But DeSantis wasn’t with the President Saturday, instead visiting harder-hit areas of Keatan and Horseshoe Beaches.

DeSantis told reporters Friday he didn’t want the president in those areas because security would slow down the restoration.

FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell said the plan was always for the president to visit Live Oak.

“The roads aren’t blocked, but there are families that are hurting there,” Criswell said.

Families Ebersole hopes don’t get forgotten.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re 25 and able or 71 and not able, you have to have help,” Ebersole said.

Biden did see some damage across the Big Bend from the sky before landing in Live Oak.

Governor DeSantis met with President Joe Biden within a week of Hurricane Ian hitting Fort Meyers Beach last year.