(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden resumed official travel Monday for the first time since his bout with Covid-19, traveling to Kentucky to show federal support for the state’s recovery from historic flooding and to console survivors of the devastation.
“The federal government and all its resources, we’re not leaving, as long as it takes,” Biden said during a briefing at an elementary school in Lost Creek, Kentucky. “You’re stuck with us. We’re here until it’s over.”
Biden sat next to Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear without a mask, one day after the presidential physician cleared him to resume in-person public events following a so-called rebound Covid-19 infection.
The president and First Lady Jill Biden will also visit with families in the eastern region of the state, one of the worst-hit areas during the days-long stretch of severe rainstorms in late July, which left at least 37 people dead. Beshear said that number could rise.
Thunderstorms and torrential rainfall swept through Kentucky, destroying homes and communities. Some areas of the state received between 14 and 16 inches from July 26 to 29, levels that were “historically unheard of,” according to the National Weather Service.
The Bidens were greeted on arrival at Wendell Ford Airport in Perry County by officials including Beshear, Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Jacqueline Coleman, Representative Hal Rogers, and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell. The Bidens joined Beshear to survey some of the destruction, passing damaged houses, buildings and debris-filled waterways in their motorcade.
Beshear, a Democrat, called the response “one of the fastest disaster declarations we’ve ever seen.”
Biden called the devastation “incredibly heartbreaking” and said he was grateful for the work of first responders and the National Guard.
“We’ve suffered the consequence of climate change, a significant number of weather catastrophes around the nation just in the year and half I’ve been president,” Biden said, mentioning wildfires on the West Coast and natural disasters in New York and New Jersey.
The Biden administration has increased the funding made available to local Kentucky officials through a federal disaster declaration to 100% of eligible costs for the next 30 days. Normally, the government covers 75% of expenses required for recovery on a cost-sharing basis under the designation. The president initially approved Beshear’s request for federal assistance on July 29.
Biden is making the trip fresh from a major political victory after Democrats in the US Senate passed a tax, climate and health-care bill that revived parts of his domestic agenda -- and after being sidelined by Covid.
Biden told reporters in Dover, Delaware, he was feeling well as he walked to board Air Force One en route to Lexington, Kentucky.
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