Biden approves federal disaster emergency for Florida, calls DeSantis regarding storm, Jacksonville shooting

President Biden and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke Monday about a federal emergency declaration with Tropical Storm Idalia forecast to become a hurricane.

President Biden called GOP political opponent Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Monday to say he’d approve a request for a federal disaster declaration ahead of Tropical Storm Idalia’s expected landfall later this week. 

The governor’s office confirmed to Fox News Digital that DeSantis spoke with Biden Monday morning, while the White House told outlets the discussion centered on storm prep. Biden “also expressed his commitment to ongoing support for the people of Jacksonville following the horrific shooting on Saturday,” the White House said.

Asked at a press conference if the governor believed his 2024 presidential candidacy would impact financial and other aid from the White House, DeSantis denied the notion. 

“There’s a time and a place to have political season, but then there’s a time and a place to say that this is something that’s life-threatening,” DeSantis said Monday morning. “This is something that could potentially cost somebody their life, it could cost them their livelihood. And we have a responsibility as Americans to come together and do what we can to mitigate any damage and to protect people.” 


Biden ordered federal assistance to supplement state, tribal and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions resulting from Idalia, which the National Hurricane Center said was near the coast of Cuba Monday and on a potential track to come ashore as a hurricane in the southern U.S.

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DeSantis said Idalia is forecasted to reach hurricane status by later Monday and reach landfall later in the week as a Category 3. 

Biden’s emergency declaration for Florida authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), “to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe,” the White House said. 

The federal order impacts the counties of Alachua, Bay, Calhoun, Charlotte, Citrus, Columbia, DeSoto, Dixie, Franklin, Gadsden, Gilchrist, Gulf, Hamilton, Hardee, Hernando, Hillsborough, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lee, Leon, Levy, Liberty, Madison, Manatee, Marion, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota, Sumter, Suwannee, Taylor, and Wakulla. DeSantis already declared a state of emergency for 33 of the state’s 67 counties on Saturday, warning that residents even outside the emergency declaration should remain vigilant. 

“Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency,” the White House statement said. “Emergency protective measures (Category B), including direct Federal assistance, under the Public Assistance program will be provided at 75 percent Federal funding.”

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Brett Howard of FEMA was appointed to coordinate federal recovery operations in the affected areas.

On Sunday, DeSantis warned that fuel contamination reported at potentially dozens of gas stations in the Gulf Coast is “happening right of the eve of the storm.” 

“If (consumers) filled up at any one of these stations, they probably don’t want to drive their car — because you’re going to have people potentially just stuck on the side of the road,” he said. 

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said late Sunday the contamination impacting at least 29 affected stations in several cities, including Tampa, Fort Myers and Sarasota, was caused by “human error.”

In a Sunday statement, the Houston-headquartered Citgo cited a product routing issue at its Tampa terminal. Those locations with potentially contaminated fuel have been notified and asked by Citgo to halt sales. Citgo is working to remove the contaminated fuel from all locations that may have it, the company said.

With so many residents potentially evacuating as Idalia approaches, state officials said the contaminated fuel can damage the engines of vehicles or cause them to malfunction. 

DeSantis canceled campaign stops in South Carolina over the weekend in the wake of what authorities deemed a racially motivated shooting at a Jacksonville Dollar General store, where a now-dead suspect killed three Black people. DeSantis was booed at a vigil for the victims Sunday, but a Democrat local official came to his defense. 

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The governor on Monday committed $1 million to bolster security for an historically Black college nearby. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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