5:16 P.M. EDT
Q We are really honored right now to have with us on the telephone, the Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence. Thank you so much for being with us, and we want to get right to it and ask you about this federal declaration — disaster declaration. Talk to us a little about what that means; what the federal government is willing to do to try and help us out here in Houston.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, first, let me thank you, and let me thank this station, and all the great local media that has been working, I know, around the clock, to get real time information to those that are struggling in the aftermath of landfall for Hurricane Harvey and now dealing with the historic flooding.
I can tell you that the hearts of every American and I can assure you, the President and myself, and our entire administration are all in Houston, and we’re with you.
And the disaster declaration you referred to, the President actually signed on Friday night before Hurricane Harvey made landfall. And, what it did was free up an enormous amount of federal resources.
We currently have more than 8,500 officials on the ground, our FEMA director is there. The President and the First Lady will be on the ground tomorrow, in Texas, to see firsthand about the progress of our response. We have dozens of Coast Guard helicopters and fixed-wing working with first responders.
We just commend Governor Abbott, we commend local officials in Houston and all of those that are reaching out and making every effort. We know it has saved lives. We grieve the loss of life that has occurred. But to see the effort by local first responders and state and local officials, to see the way volunteers have poured forth with vehicles and small boats to help neighbors and friends — Texas is truly inspiring the nation.
Q And yeah we appreciate those words, and President Trump has similar words just a little while ago when we listened into a press conference. So, as you mentioned, he is expected to visit the Corpus Christi area tomorrow with the First Lady. Can you share any more goals of that visit when he gets on the ground and what we might expect of that trip tomorrow?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, to know President Trump is to know a hands-on leader, someone who has high expectation. And really, from the time that Hurricane Harvey first made landfall, the President has been in continuous contact with Homeland Security and every agency of the national government that has been deployed to be with the people of Texas and with the people of Louisiana.
As you know, the President signed an emergency declaration this morning for Louisiana and has been in touch today with, I know, governors of both those states. And what I can tell you is that our Cabinet met over the course of this weekend. President Trump has been driving forward.
We’re encouraged by the progress that’s been made by the efforts that state and local officials have made with support of federal officials to deal with the storm and the flooding. But we know there is a long way to go, we are not out of the woods.
And so the President wanted to be there on the ground to see firsthand the progress that’s been made, and also to make sure that every agency of the federal government is doing everything in their power to move people out of harm’s and then, also, begin the long process of recovery that the people of Houston, the greater area of southeast Texas will be dealing with for some time.
And the President wants to assure families that are affected that they have our prayers, but they have the steadfast support of this administration at every level, as well as the outstanding work of state and local officials, and leaders, and first responders to see our way through this and recover and rebuild southeast Texas — as the President said today — better and stronger than ever before.
Q Yes, we need prayers and manpower for certain. I know there was an effort today by our governor to try and encourage people to right away begin the process of reaching out to FEMA.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well that’s exactly right. And people would do well to reach out to FEMA directly. The phone number is 1-800-621-FEMA. People can also reach out to the disaster assistance website. As of this morning, we already had some 22,000 citizens who had contacted FEMA to begin the process of obtaining federal assistance that is available to Americans in these circumstances. It’s DisasterAssistance.gov, if people are able to get to the Internet.
We think there may be as many as 500,000 people that will be eligible across the region for federal financial assistance. And if people think they are or might be, they can call that phone number, as I’m sure you’ve shared it, or go online at DisasterAssistance.gov to go ahead and register.
But I can assure you that, right now, the total focus of officials at the local level, first responders, and all of us partners at the federal level is on a rescue effort, getting people out of harm’s way. And that will continue as the flood waters continue to rise, the rain continues to come down. But getting in front of the recovery effort, getting in front of the rebuilding effort, we encourage people to reach out to those resources and begin that process soon.
Q And I know you’re watching a lot of the images coming out, specifically here in the Houston area, now that we are days and days into this. And even to us, and we’re watching this around the clock, it’s shocking to us to see this happening in our backyard. Just on a human level, what goes through your mind when you are seeing some of these images? And speak directly to the people of southeast Texas; what message do you have for them?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I can tell you that the message from President Trump and his family, and myself and my family, is that it just breaks our hearts to see the families struggling and suffering through this ordeal. And just want people to know that we are with you. We stand with you. The American people are standing with the people of Texas and Louisiana, as you go through this extraordinary ordeal.
As the President has said, we’re all part of the same American family. When one hurts, we all hurt. And I can assure that we are not going to rest or relent in our efforts to see this rescue effort through. As the rain continues to come down and the flood waters rise, we’ll be there. We’ll be there with your first responders, with state and local officials. And long after the flood waters have gone, I can assure that your national government, the American people, are going to be with the people of Texas. And we will stand with the strong and resilient people of Texas as you rebuild southeast Texas better and stronger than ever before.
Q Absolutely. Vice President Mike Pence, we so appreciate you taking time out of your busy day to bring us your warm words and also some very applicable and (inaudible) tips for people who are going through a difficult time. Thank you so much.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you. Thank you for having me on, and we are with you. The President and the First Lady will be there tomorrow, and we’re going to see our way through this. God bless Texas.
Q Absolutely. Thank you.
5:25 P.M. EDT