LOUISVILLE, Ky. — After touring the wreckage created by last week’s tornadoes, President Joe Biden on Wednesday pledged that the federal government would be around to help all of those harmed by the storm for a long time. 

“I intend to do whatever it takes, as long as it takes, to support your state and your local leaders as you recover and rebuild, because you will recover and you will rebuild,” Biden said in Dawson Springs.

What You Need To Know

  • President Biden on Wednesday said the federal government will cover 100% of tornado-related costs for 30 days in Kentucky

  • After those 30 days, the federal government will cover 75% of costs

  • Gov. Beshear said the money will go a long way toward helping local areas recover

  • The money will be especially helpful paying for debris clean up, officials said

On Dec. 12, Biden made a major disaster declaration covering the areas affected by the winds. That declaration allowed for the federal government to cover 75% of “emergency protective measures, hazard mitigation and assistance to affected individuals,” according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The other 25% would be covered by the state and local government. 

On Wednesday, Biden announced an increase in that threshold. 

“I just approved a request that I wasn’t sure I had the authority to do, but it turns out I do,” he said. “The government is going to cover 100% of the cost for the first 30 days for all the emergency work for cleaning everything. Every single cost the federal government is going to take care of, including debris removal, cost of overtime for law enforcement, emergency service personnel, and shelter.”

The 100% cost share is sometimes seen after major natural disasters. After Hurricane Michael hit Florida in 2018, the federal government covered 100% of the costs related to the cleanup for 45 days. A year prior, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and the federal government covered 100% of the cost related to debris removal and emergency protective measures for more than six months. Similar orders were made after Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina. 

At a press briefing Thursday, Gov. Andy Beshear explained that he asked Biden to increase federal government’s cost-sharing on Tuesday, admitting that he thought it may have been “unthinkable.”

“On Wednesday, the president told me personally the answer was yes,” Beshear said.

He added: “That is going to be a huge amount of money and that’s going to free up other dollars for us for the months and the years to come. It’s going to give us the tools we require to help and to dig out.”

Following the 30 days of the federal government's 100% cost share, the share drops back down to 75%. Beshear said he’ll be back in touch with Washington when that happens. “I can guarantee we’re going to be asking for something different,” he said.

Local and state governments, along with certain nonprofits will be eligible for federal reimbursement under Biden’s order. 

The federal funds will be particularly helpful when it comes to debris removal, which Kentucky Emergency Management director Michael Dossett called “one of the largest expenses and one of the largest reimbursement opportunities for this entire disaster.”

Debris removal after a tornado is complicated and costly. It can involve everything from clearing rubble to recycling vehicles. Dossett said the cleanup will be “one of the largest pieces of the recovery” and involve work by federal, state, and private contractors.