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Remarks at Briefing on Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts in Austin, Texas

August 29, 2017

The President. And I have to say this: Under great pressure, this State has really responded. And, hopefully, you can think the Government—the Federal Government—has really done its job, because we've enjoyed working with you. Even though these are really trying times, we've enjoyed it very much, Governor. I want to thank you.

Governor Gregory W. Abbott of Texas. Well, thank you. If I could, Mr. President, I want you to know the gratitude that Texans have for you. We're honored to have you here in the Lone Star State. I wish it were not under these circumstances.

But we are able to be where we are today, in the aftermath of this catastrophic storm that we faced. And it's really been two storms: It was a hurricane that turned into one of the most immense floods ever suffered by the United States. People's lives have been on the line, and I've been able to see firsthand your care and your compassion for the people of Texas.

You—I've had the opportunity—for those who only get to see what happens on the front lines, you need to know what happens behind the scenes. And behind the scenes, the President has shown both care, compassion, and direction and commitment, from the very beginning when the storm was still way out in the ocean. He helped Texas get prepared, providing us every resource and tool that we needed so that we could have a plan to respond to the catastrophe that was coming. And then, after the hurricane came onshore, and after the flooding began in Houston, we were in communication, either you and I almost every day, or you and myself and your tremendous Cabinet members who have bent over backwards to assist us.

And then, on our flight from Corpus Christi to Austin, you could see his genuine compassion, as we saw videos of what was going on in Houston, Texas, with the rising water and our fellow Texans suffering, the President was heartbroken about what he saw, and he's committed to ensuring that Texas will rebuild, because that's the American way. We take care of each other. We've seen that with Texans helping Texans, with Americans helping Americans. And, Mr. President, we're stronger, better, and better prepared because of your leadership from the very beginning. And I want to thank you.

The President. Thank you. And I want to just say hello—Elaine Duke is here someplace. Elaine, fantastic job. And Brock has been incredible. And from your standpoint, Nim and the whole group have been—and Steve, who I just met—Steve—and the job that they've done getting along. Number one, they like each other, very important. [Laughter] And number two, they respect each other. And the job that all of these groups have done getting along is—in terms of coordination, has been really incredible, and everyone is talking about it.

The sad thing is that this is long term. Nobody has ever seen anything this long, and nobody has ever seen this much water, in particular. The wind was pretty horrific, but the water has never been seen like this, to the extent.

And it's maybe someday going to disappear. We keep waiting. We have 3 of our great—4 of our great Congressmen right here, and we want to appreciate—we really appreciate you being here. We're going to be working with Congress on helping out the State of Texas. It's going to be a costly proposition, because again, and probably—Ted Cruz is here. And, Senator, thank you very much—Senator Cornyn. And we'll be working with these characters over here—[laughter]—and I think we'll come through with the really—the right solution.

But probably, there's never been anything so expensive in our country's history. There's never been anything so historic in terms of damage and in terms of ferocity as what we've witnessed with Harvey. Sounds like such an innocent name, Ben, right? But it's not. [Laughter] It's not innocent. It's not innocent.

I also want to thank my people. Ben Carson, as you know, is here from HUD, and Linda is—Linda McMahon from Small Business. And I say this is not small business, Linda, this is big business. When you add it all up, you're going to be giving away many, many millions of dollars to help people out. And Tom Price, as you know is—Dr. Tom Price, who is—you have your people in the field, Tom.

In fact, you may say a couple of words. And then, I'll ask Linda, and I'll ask Ben, and then I think we'll get on to Nim and to Brock and everybody.


Secretary of Health and Human Services Thomas E. Price. Sure. Thanks, Mr. President. As you said, this is a historic proportions storm and flood. The challenge that we have, obviously, is to get the resources to the individuals that are stranded right now, make certain that the evacuees have a place to go. From an HHS standpoint, our responsibilities are medical and veterinary and mortuary. And there will be all of the above.

The challenge that we have in the long term is that most individuals who suffer from these suffer from not being able to get the medical care that they need after the—when the sun comes out. So trying to make certain that we've got pharmacies staffed, make certain that dialysis units are up, make certain that folks are getting the electricity to their homes so the oxygen concentrators and the like are able to be utilized. And then, just chronic disease—making certain the folks can get to their doctor when they aren't in their hometown and get the treatment that they need.

But we're staffed up and ready to go. We've got four Federal medical stations that—two are up and running and two on the way. And we've another four or five that are stationed beyond after that, depending on where folks need services——

The President. And they're big ones.

Secretary Price. Yes, sir. Yes. So we're here for you.

The President. Thank you very much. Thank you, Tom.


Small Business Administration Administrator Linda E. McMahon. Well, SBA has its main disaster relief office in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, so we have 900 people there permanently. We have 600 available in the surge. There will be—they're already coming in. I actually did get a note on the plane from Corpus there that we made the first home loan approval from this disaster. So I was glad that we're already up and running.

We will be making home loans, business loans. We'll be making loans for those folks who have lost income and also the opportunity to replace plant property and equipment and inventories. So we're up and ready to go.

The President. Thank you very much. And Ben Carson from HUD. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Benjamin S. Carson, Sr. Well, thank you, Mr. President. Thank you for your leadership and Mrs. First Lady also. Compassion permeates everything that's been done, and it's been great working with everybody. And, Governor, you're one of the people that I admire the most.

Gov. Abbott. Thank you, Secretary.

Secretary Carson. Brock is doing a fantastic job, and Elaine. Everybody that we've been working with is fantastic.

And what we've been trying to do is make sure that we go from the phase of rescue and reaction to the phase of recovery and a smooth transition. We're also going to be assisting State and local governments in reallocation of Federal assets to the disaster relief. Looking at granting immediate foreclosure relief; insurance—mortgage insurance, as well as insurance for rehabilitation, through the Section 203(k) program, Section 108 loan guarantees for infrastructure, for economic development, and for a host of things; and also disseminating information, which is so critical. The masses frequently become confused. We're working very hard to get rid of some of the regulatory burden so that we can get things done very quickly. Linda and I will be working on that to make sure that we get what we need to the people.

And I want everybody to know that we're in this for the long run, and we know that once the water recedes, that's where our work really begins. And we're going to be at it until we finish the job.

The President. Thank you, Ben, very much. I appreciate it.

So, Nim, why don't you take over along with Brock, and we can through some of the different things that we're going to be doing.

[At this point, the briefing continued, but no transcript was provided.]

NOTE: The President spoke at 3:22 p.m. at the Texas Department of Public Safety Emergency Operations Center. In his remarks, he referred to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine C. Duke; Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator W. Brock Long; W. Nim Kidd, chief, Texas Division of Emergency Management; and Steven C. McCraw, director, Texas Department of Public Safety.

Donald J. Trump, Remarks at Briefing on Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts in Austin, Texas Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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