President Joe Biden declared a major disaster for Texas following severe winter storm that left millions without power or water during the frigid cold temperatures.
Biden’s action will make federal funding available to communities across 77 counties, including Harris County, where Houston is located. The White House said more disaster designations may be made after another round of damage assessments.
“I thank President Biden for his assistance as we respond to impacts of winter weather across our state,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement on Saturday. “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.”
According to the tracking site poweroutage.us, Texas has accounted for more than 20 percent of the 295,000 outages in the United States with over 60,000. Lawsuits have been filed against against the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which controls 90 percent of the state’s electricity.
“Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programmes to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster,” the White House statement said.
22 people in Texas have died as a result of the severe winter storm. 11 of them in weather-related car accidents and at least five others died due to being exposed to the cold.
“Most Texans do not winterize their homes. It would be counterproductive in the hot months that we have, so we know there are a lot of broken pipes out there,” Chief Nim Kidd of the Texas Division of Emergency Management said during a press conference.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., along with Rep. Sylvia Garcia and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee helped raise $3.2 million for relief efforts for struggling Texans in desperate need of assistance.
The state has received a total of 5.5 million bottles and an additional 1 million bottles of water are expected on Saturday.