SHARKEY COUNTY, Miss. (WJTV) – President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden traveled to Rolling Fork, Mississippi, on Friday, March 31.
They visited with first responders, state and local officials, and communities impacted by the devastation from the tornadoes on March 24.
During the visit, Biden vowed that the federal government is “not leaving” until the area is back on its feet.
Rolling Fork was hit by an EF4 tornado, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). The storm destroyed roughly 300 homes and businesses in Rolling Fork and Silver City.
Hundreds of additional structures were badly damaged. The death toll in Mississippi stood at 21, based on deaths confirmed by coroners.
In the close-knit community of Rolling Fork, Biden read aloud the names of each of the 13 residents of the small town killed in the storm after touring the wreckage. He acknowledged to residents that the road to recovery will be long and hard, but said he was committed to helping them through it.
“We’re not just here for today,” said Biden, standing near an animal shelter and a hardware store reduced to rubble by the powerful storm as he addressed members of the devastated community. “We’re going to get it done for you. We’re going to make sure you can stay right here.”
Watch the full remarks from Biden below.
From Marine One, as they flew from Jackson to the area hardest hit by last week’s storm, the president and First Lady Jill Biden got a view of the devastation across acres of farmland — destroyed homes, toppled trees and piles of debris.
Later, as the president’s motorcade drove down a long dirt road through miles of farmland, passing modest homes flattened by the tornado. Children’s bicycles, soggy clothing, broken furniture and splintered wood were clumped in piles where the homes once stood.
“This is tough stuff,” Biden said as he was greeted by state, local and federal officials after arriving in Rolling Fork. “The most important thing is we got to let people know the reason for them to have hope, especially those who have lost somebody.”
Biden announced that the federal government will cover the total cost of the state’s emergency measures for the next 30 days, including overtime for first responders and debris cleanup. In addition, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will open disaster recovery centers in storm-ravaged counties to help residents access resources.
The Bidens also met with residents impacted by the storms and first responders, and received an operational briefing from federal and state officials.
The White House approved Gov. Tate Reeves’ request for Individual and Public Assistance for counties affected by the tornadoes and severe weather. The governor said on Thursday that he plans to meet with President Biden during his trip to Mississippi.
Individual assistance is available to residents in those four counties and can include grants for temporary housing, home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of this disaster.
Residents in Carroll, Humphreys, Monroe, and Sharkey who sustained losses during the March 24 severe weather can now apply for assistance by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired.
FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell said some of the damage to the area’s infrastructure will take much time to repair and that the administration will help in rebuilding key facilities to be “more resilient” to withstand future natural disasters.
“We know that these communities could be cash strapped and we want to get that funding flowing,” Criswell added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.