Joe Biden

Remarks Prior to a Briefing on the Surfside Residential Building Collapse in Miami Beach, Florida

July 01, 2021

[The President's remarks were joined in progress.]

The President. ——and I've got to say that, you know, having been to, unfortunately, a lot of—like many of us have—a lot of disaster sites because of natural disasters, it's—what you're doing, in coordination among you all, has been just admirable. It really is impressive.

And so I just want to say thanks and listen and find out what I can do as President and what I can unleash, in terms of help, for whatever you need.

The Governor and the mayor have been completely open with me, asked whatever they—whatever they've asked, I think we've been able to deliver. And I think there's more that we can do, including—I think I have the power—and we'll know shortly that—to be able to pick up a hundred percent of the cost for the county and the State for 30 days.

Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade, Florida. Oh, my goodness, Mr. President.

The President. I think I'm quite sure I can do that. And so we're going to do that.

And there's going to be a lot—you all know it because a lot of you have been through it as well—there's going to be a lot of pain and anxiety and suffering and even need for psychological help in the days and months that follow.

And so we're not going anywhere.

Mayor Levine Cava. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. President.

The President. No, for real. But, again, I just want to, you know, start the day, if I could, but getting as thorough briefing as you're able to give me, and tell me what you need. And that goes for both the Senators and the Congresswoman and anyone in Florida, just to pick up the phone to the Oval. For real. I'm not joking about it.

And I think the Gov will tell you—anything you ask for, we got. And we have another group of teams coming from FEMA today. How many people will it be?

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Bennett Criswell. At the end of the day, there should about 500 on the ground.

The President. Five hundred on the ground.

So, again, this is your show. We just want to make sure that whatever you need—and you know, including—well, anyway, I'm talking too much. Why don't I—I want to hear from you guys.

Mayor Levine Cava. All right. Well, Mr. President, we cannot thank you enough for being here with us, for showing your extraordinary support from day one. You called me that morning. We hustled into a little room in the Family Reunification Center so I could take the call, and you said whatever we need. And I said, "Bring FEMA," and here they are, on the ground.

[At this point, Mayor Levine Cava continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]

So I—we have a briefing for you. And I want to start with our Governor. And I want to thank you, Governor DeSantis. Your team has been amazing, but you personally have been amazing. You've been a steady, calming, reassuring, but forceful voice every step of the way. And it's been a pleasure to partner with you, truly. Thank you. Thank you.

Governor Ronald D. DeSantis of Florida. Well, if I could——

The President. Let me say just one more thing. You know what's good about this—the way you've cooperated? We're letting the Nation know we can cooperate.

Mayor Levine Cava. Yes, sir. That's right.

The President. And when it's really important——

Mayor Levine Cava. That's right.

The President. ——when it's really important—I was talking to Debbie about it on the way down—we come together. This is life and death.

And so I don't think—I just got back from about 12 days in Europe. They wonder whether we can do this. And you're doing it. I mean, just the simple act of everybody doing whatever needs to be done is a—and it really makes a difference, Gov.

Gov. DeSantis. Well, thank you, Mr. President. And you've recognized the severity of this tragedy from day one. And you've been very supportive.

We, in Florida—you know, you'll drive up and down these coastal roads, you'll see these buildings. And I've driven by that building, probably never thought twice. And then, something like this happens, and you recognize in each individual unit there's an amazing story.

And lives have been shattered irrevocably as a result of this. We've already identified, unfortunately, fatalities—people who've been 92 years old, have been a matriarch of a wonderful family. We have families with kids missing. And we even have young newlyweds who hadn't even been married a year who were in the tower when it collapsed.

And so the cooperation has been great. The local—both the municipal and the county have been fantastic. And you guys have not only been supportive at the Federal level, but we've had no bureaucracy. When we're dealing with FEMA, we're literally getting requests routed from local to State to Federal in no time——

The President. I promise you, there will be none.

Gov. DeSantis. ——and the approval is happening. Yes.

[Gov. DeSantis continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

But I can tell you this: We're not going to stop until we identify everybody and until we do what we need to do. So thank you, Mr. President.

Mayor Levine Cava. Thank you, Mr. President. I want to acknowledge the leadership of the First Lady, Casey DeSantis, as well, who is very, very focused on children and mental health issues and is bringing that agenda to our discussions. And of course, we've been including all of that, as you'll learn from the briefings. But we know how important First Ladies are—[laughter]—so we just wanted to be sure to give a shout out.

[The press was escorted out, and the briefing continued.]

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:41 a.m. at the St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort. In his remarks, he referred to Sens. Marco A. Rubio and Richard L. Scott; and Rep. Deborah Wasserman Schultz.

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks Prior to a Briefing on the Surfside Residential Building Collapse in Miami Beach, Florida Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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