After touring recovery efforts in a flooded Baton Rouge neighborhood this afternoon, President Obama pledged to help rebuild Louisiana, insisting his visit there “is not a photo-op.”
“I come here first and foremost to say that the prayers of the entire nation are with everybody who lost loved ones. We are heartbroken by the loss of life,” he said during remarks after his tour of the flooding. “There are also still people who are desperately trying to track down friends and family. We are going to keep on helping them every way that we can.”
Obama observed that “people’s lives have been upended by this flood.”
“Sometimes when these kinds of things happen, it can seem too much to bear, but what I want the people of Louisiana to know is that you’re not alone on this,” he said. “Even after the TV cameras leave, the whole country is going to continue to support you and help you until we get folks back in their homes and lives are rebuilt.”
The president praised the Federal Emergency Management Agency for its efforts coordinating a federal response, which he said has already reached $127 million in assistance.
“Now, federal assistance alone won’t be enough to make people’s lives whole again, so I’m asking every American to do what you can to help get families and local businesses back on their feet,” Obama said. “So let me just remind folks: Sometimes once the floodwaters pass, people’s attention spans pass. This is not a one-off. This is not a photo-op issue. This is ‘How do you make sure that a month from now, three months from now, six months from now, people still are getting the help that they need?’”
Before he leaves this afternoon, the president is scheduled to meet with the family of Alton Sterling as well as the families of deceased and injured officers of the Baton Rouge Police Department and East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office.
Air Force One touched down at approximately 11:45 a.m. Central time. The president then traveled in his motorcade to the Castle Place neighborhood, where he visited residents affected by the flood.
For days, critics hammered Obama for continuing his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts as flooding wreaked havoc on Louisiana, claiming the lives of at least 13 people and displacing tens of thousands of residents.
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Obama declared a major disaster for Louisiana on Aug. 14, making federal resources available to help with home repairs, temporary housing, low-cost loans for uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover. The White House disclosed that he received a series of briefings on the flooding during his vacation.
In Castle Place he viewed some of the flood damage, thanked rescuers, spoke with to officials who have been managing the response effort and greeted citizens whose lives have been thrown into chaos because of the flooding.