This morning, the President convened a briefing at that National Response Coordination Center at FEMA headquarters to receive the latest update on federal efforts to support state and local response and recovery activities. At FEMA, the President was joined by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, SBA Administrator Karen Mills, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Winnefeld as well as Deputy Chief of Staff Alyssa Mastromonaco, Deputy Assistant to the President for Homeland Security Richard Reed, and other senior members of the President’s team. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and USNORTHCOM Commander General Jacoby joined the briefing by phone.
On the call the President received an update from the National Weather Service, including a forecast on a coastal low pressure system that could be moving into the area in coming days, and spoke directly with a number of state and local officials, who also joined by phone, including Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, as well as Borough President’s and mayors from across the affected area. This conversation provided the President and his team another opportunity to discuss specific challenges with state and local leaders, including issues related to power generation, fuel challenges, and long term housing needs among others.
The President made clear that his Administration would continue to use all available resources to support the deployment of necessary assets, and directed his team to continue to focus on identifying and removing any barriers to the movement of these resources. On Thursday, following a conversation between the President and utility executives, the Department of Defense airlifted utility resources, including bucket trucks and other assets, from California to New York to support power restoration efforts. Yesterday, FEMA announced that the President directed the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) to purchase up to 12 million gallons of unleaded fuel and up to 10 million gallons of diesel fuel for distribution in areas impacted by the storm to supplement ongoing private sector efforts. This purchase will be transported by tanker trucks and distributed throughout New York, New Jersey and other communities impacted by the storm. This announcement followed a decision earlier in the day to provide a temporary blanket waiver to the Jones Act, to ensure tankers could move oil and refined gas to the New York area as quickly as possible. On today’s call, following a discussion of additional resources available to individuals impacted by the storm, the President also directed SBA Administrator Karen Mills to brief local officials directly on the low-cost loans available through the FEMA Disaster Declarations provided to eligible families.
The President thanked the state and local officials on the call for their hard work, and specifically praised the heroic efforts of the first responders still on the front lines, and told his team that continuing to surge all available resources was the administration’s top priority. The President closed by making clear he expected no letup in these efforts.
A full list of Administration travel taking place to affected areas today can be found below:
Today, following the briefing Administration officials will visit storm-damaged communities throughout the affected region, see response efforts first hand, and make sure that necessary resources are getting to state and local partners who are still responding and beginning recovery efforts. Secretary Donovan will visit public housing developments in the Rockaways and tour Breezy Point, New York, to hear from state and local officials and see first-hand the damage and recovery efforts there. Secretary Sebelius will visit with hospital workers, residents impacted by the storm, and local officials in Manhattan and Brooklyn, New York. Administrator Mills will join Governor Malloy and other state and local officials in Norwalk and Bridgeport, Connecticut, to meet with small business owners and other residents affected by the storm. Secretary Napolitano will travel to West Virginia and Long Island, New York to see response and recovery efforts underway. And Assistant to the President for Homeland Security John Brennan will join officials from FEMA, the Department of Transportation, and the Army Corps of Engineers to view impacted areas in Hoboken, Newark, and Jersey City, New Jersey, as well as Staten Island, New York.