Biden brings empathy to storm-battered Texas, security official lays out
Send a link to a friend
[February 27, 2021]
By Jarrett Renshaw
HOUSTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe
Biden met with volunteers at a food bank, toured a health center and
visited an emergency operations facility on Friday to assess recovery
efforts from a severe Texas winter storm while an aide blamed state
government for being unprepared.
Biden and his wife Jill Biden landed in Houston where he met Republican
Governor Greg Abbott and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner to discuss the
recovery from last week’s storm, which caused serious damage to homes
and businesses, left millions without power or clean water for days, and
killed at least two dozen.
At the Houston Food Bank, the largest in the country serving more than
1.1 million people, Biden saw rows of packaged food, from pasta to
applesauce, stacked in a large warehouse and watched conveyors move
slowly as volunteers pulled food out of boxes and put them in containers
He visited an emergency operations center in Harris County, where
roughly 50 percent of the county's 4.9 million residents were without
power. "As my mother would say to you, you're doing God's work," he told
Biden, a Democrat, has sought to bring consolation and empathy to the
hard-hit state, which leans heavily Republican.
When he visited a vaccination center, he repeated his message of unity.
"We're not here as Democrats or Republicans. We're here today as
Biden also said his administration has given out 50 million shots of the
vaccine out of the 100 million the White House promised will be
delivered in the first 100 days. He said the effort is "weeks ahead of
"America will be the first ... in the world to get that done," he said.
In five weeks, the United States has administered the most shots of any
country, Biden said.
The United States has the highest COVID-19 death toll at more than
500,000 people and is still recording the most infections and deaths per
day, according to Reuters tracking https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps.
Biden also delivered a warning with his message of hope and progress.
"Cases and hospitalizations could go back up as new variants emerge and
it's not the time to relax," he said.
Earlier in the day, Biden's deputy national security adviser, Elizabeth
Sherwood-Randall, laid responsibility on the Texas government for
foregoing energy regulation that could have left it better prepared.
[to top of second column]
President Joe Biden visits the Houston Food Bank accompanied by its
CEO Brian Greene in Houston, Texas, U.S., February 26, 2021.
"Texas has chosen not to make the kinds of decisions that would
provide for the supplies that you would keep for an emergency, that
is, to invest in a kind of resilience that other states which are
regulated are required to invest in," she said.
"They don't have the backup in terms of supply or generation
capability that they needed to have in this crisis," she said.
For 10 days this month, Texas was hit by an unusually prolonged
period of very low temperatures. Electricity consumption surged,
while many generating units failed to start up owing to frozen
The state's Republican leaders have come under fire for not heeding
warnings that the Texas power grid needed significant upgrades to
defend against deep freezes.
While much of the rest of the United States features electricity
systems that are interconnected, allowing power to cross state
lines, Texas has long stood out for having its own grid.
The disaster has been a test of Biden's pledge to work for all
Americans to help unify the country. Abbott initially did not
recognize Biden's November election victory over former Republican
President Donald Trump. Texas state officials lost a court bid in
December to overturn the results, which Trump has falsely claimed
were tainted by widespread fraud.
Last week, Abbott asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency and
Biden to issue a major disaster declaration for all of the state's
254 counties. Biden initially signed off on a declaration for 77
counties, adding 31 more on Monday and signaling he was open to
increasing the number.
The declaration authorizes FEMA to provide grants for temporary
housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property
losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners.
(Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw; Writing by Nandita Bose; additional
reporting by Jeff Mason and Makini Brice; Editing by Aurora Ellis
and Grant McCool)
[© 2021 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2021 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Thompson Reuters is solely responsible for this content.