Biden to travel to Houston on Friday to survey winter storm recovery

Nicole Cobler, Austin American-Statesman
·2 min read

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will head to Houston on Friday as Texas recovers from last week's winter storms that left millions without power.

The White House did not release additional details about the visit in its advisory, but press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters in a Tuesday briefing that Biden is expected to meet with local officials to discuss winter storm relief efforts and progress toward recovery.

He'll also visit a health center where vaccines are being distributed, Psaki said.

It's Biden's first trip to Texas as president.

Biden has approved a major disaster declaration for much of the state, adding 31 additional counties to the declaration Monday. Gov. Greg Abbott requested a major disaster declaration for all 254 Texas counties, but Biden has not granted the full request.

The declaration opens the door to additional federal relief for Texans who have suffered damage from the freeze. The approval can assist home owners and renters dealing with the consequences broken water pipes.

A spokeswoman for Abbott did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether the governor would meet with Biden in Houston.

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Houston Democrat, praised Biden for traveling to the Lone Star State.

"Our area has faced such devastation," Jackson Lee tweeted. "I’m glad to be able to announce that the President of the United States Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden will be looking to come to our area this week to be able to give comfort and continued support to the recovery of our community and as well to emphasize the fight against COVID-19."

Biden's visit to a Houston health center comes after hundreds of vaccine doses in Texas were wasted because of power outages during the freeze.

The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 969 wasted doses in its Feb. 19 weekly report, the latest data available. More than 3,000 doses have been wasted since vaccines first arrived in Teas, meaning that 30% of the state's spoiled vaccines occured in the last week.

The cumulative number shows nearly 800 wasted vaccine doses because of a "natural disaster or power outage," a new category for the weekly report. The state also reported 120 expired doses, 356 wasted because the refrigerator was too warm and 184 destroyed because of "mechanical failure."

More: President Joe Biden planning trip to storm-ravaged Texas, but 'I don't want to be a burden'

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: President Joe Biden to travel to Houston following Texas storm crisis