White House defends Maui wildfire response, announces $95M for recovery

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WASHINGTON (Nexstar) – The burned-out streets of Lahaina are the latest battleground for Democrats and Republicans, as some members of the GOP accuse the Biden administration of not responding to the emergency adequately.

The White House is on the defense, saying the Biden administration responded immediately and appropriately — and will keep helping Hawaii long term.

Republicans are scrutinizing the president’s recent responses to natural disasters.

“If he responds to it like he did in Hawaii, we might be in trouble. But let’s hope he doesn’t,” Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA) said.

Republicans claim the Biden administration’s response to Maui’s deadly wildfires was too slow and House Oversight Chairman James Comer says his committee will investigate the government’s decisions.

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However, Hawaii Congresswoman Jill Tokuda (D-HI) says the issue shouldn’t be politicized.

“We need to focus all this concern that we have across the aisle from both Democrats and Republicans and focus it on helping the real people here on Maui,” Tokuda said.

The White House defended its response.

“As soon as the governor in Hawaii, Josh Green, and he has said this himself, requested a major disaster declaration, the president signed it,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell added, “what the federal government does is we come in and we support their efforts and that’s exactly what we did.”

President Biden said he didn’t immediately visit Maui because he didn’t want to get in the way of the immediate recovery efforts. but was helping behind the scenes.

“You’ve heard from the governor, you’ve heard from the two senators who’ve lifted up and said how quickly the president responded,” Jean-Pierre said.

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The president says his administration isn’t done.

“I’m announcing that $95 million from the bipartisan infrastructure law is on the way to Hawaii, to harden the ground power, harden the grid,” Biden said.

Another way that Maui residents can get federal help is by applying for federal unemployment benefits if they’re unable to work due to the wildfire.

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