Sara Sidner of CNN recently confronted White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on the subject of Jean-Pierre’s advice to the victims of the devastating Maui wildfires to use FEMA’s online resources and phone line, despite the glaring issue of limited access.
Reports paint a grim picture of the Maui wildfires’ aftermath. The death toll has surpassed 100, and experts expect this number to rise. Search operations continue in the Lahaina region of Maui, with hopes of finding more survivors.
Meanwhile, critics have raised eyebrows at President Biden’s recent beach escapade in Delaware. There, he was seen cycling and casually mentioning a potential visit to Maui, seemingly oblivious to the dire situation.
Jean-Pierre defended the president, emphasizing the federal and local collaborations initiated by Biden to aid the affected areas.
“More than 600 personnel and staffers are on the ground. They’ve already provided $2.3 million of family assistance. Those in Maui, in Hawaii, still seeking federal assistance should call 800-621-FEMA or visit disasterassistance.gov. The federal government remains committed to ensuring they receive all necessary resources for recovery and rebuilding,” Jean-Pierre said.
However, Sidner highlighted a glaring oversight in Jean-Pierre’s statement: People must call or register online. This is despite the fact that power outages, spotty cell service, and communication barriers persist, preventing online access for many victims. Movement restrictions add to the challenges.
“Karine I do want to ask you about that because FEMA was on the ground, they have been criticized in past disasters for not getting there quickly enough. But in this case, they were on the ground quickly. I do want to ask you, though, you talk about people having to call that number, they have to register, as we understand it. Call the number, go to the website. But here is the big problem we’re hearing on the ground, there is no power, they are having very spotty cell service, it’s very difficult to communicate, and they are restricted in their movement,” Sidner said.
Sidner continued, asking, “So what can FEMA do better to help alleviate some of these issues for people who are saying we are not getting the help we need?”
Jean-Pierre responded, emphasizing FEMA’s proactive approach.
“Our job and FEMA, the administrator has spoken to this, and unfortunately she and her team have had to deal with many disasters over the past two years, as we’re dealing with extreme weather. They are on the ground, they are doing everything that they can,” Jean-Pierre responded.
“Obviously this is a dynamic situation, as you’ve heard directly from the administrator. We’re working with the cell companies to try to make sure that communication happens. I mentioned that FEMA has already provided and given $2.3 million of family assistance, so it’s getting out there. Our job, and she has said this as well, and the federal government personnel job is to make sure that we communicate that, that we get that to the folks on the ground, and we will be there,” she added.
Jean-Pierre recently announced that President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will visit Maui soon. Their itinerary includes meetings with first responders, survivors and other key authorities.
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