Biden approves major disaster declaration for Texas

President Joe Biden pictured here in the East Room of the White House on February 19 in Washington, DC, approves a major disaster declaration for Texas. By Jasmine Wright and Priscilla Alvarez, CNN

(CNN) -- President Joe Biden has approved a major disaster declaration for Texas, unlocking more federal resources to assist the state struggling to recover from deadly winter storms.

"Yesterday, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. declared that a major disaster exists in the State of Texas and ordered federal assistance to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by severe winter storms beginning on February 11, 2021, and continuing," the White House said in a statement Saturday.

The President's approval allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide more resources and assistance, including grants for temporary housing and repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help communities recover. The White House has been proactive in responding to the crisis, with the President having already approved an emergency declaration for the state last weekend and continuing to monitor the situation and work with local authorities there.

Biden told reporters Friday that he plans to travel to the state of Texas, when his presidential visit would no longer be a "burden" on the state's resources.

"If, in fact, it's concluded that I can do it without creating a burden for the folks on the ground while they are dealing with this crisis, I plan on going," the President said.

Texas has suffered a devastating week of below freezing temperatures and winter storms, with conditions worsened by widespread power outages across the state impacting millions of homes and businesses. Many residents now have power, but still have to deal with undrinkable water, broken pipes, and offline treatment plants.

The President said he had spoken with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, twice this week including Thursday night. Biden also spoke with acting FEMA Administrator Bob Fenton Friday afternoon, instructing him to "to mobilize other federal agencies to bring additional support to the people of Texas and ensure that any critical needs are met," according to a statement from the White House.

Abbott on Saturday thanked the President for what he called a "partially" approved request. The governor had requested both individual and public assistance for all 254 counties, and the Biden administration approved individual assistance in 77 counties and public assistance in all counties, according to a statement from Abbott's office.

"I thank President Biden for his assistance as we respond to impacts of winter weather across our state," Abbott said in the statement.

"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. The funds provided under the Major Disaster Declaration may provide crucial assistance to Texans as they begin to repair their homes and address property damage."

FEMA said in a statement that "additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments."

Liz Sherwood-Randall, Biden's Homeland security adviser, told reporters Thursday that FEMA had provided Texas with "60 generators and fuel available to support critical sites like hospitals and water facilities, 729,000 liters of water, more than 10,000 wool blankets, 50,000 cotton blankets, and 225,000 meals."

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that Biden had been receiving updates about Texas and the surrounding states impacted by the bad weather more than once a day and that the President directed his team to "make rapid decisions and be responsive to the specific needs of the states as they come up during this difficult time."

This story has been updated with additional details Saturday.

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