Joe Biden has approved a major disaster declaration for Texas after a deadly winter storm left millions without power or heating, move that unlocks more funds for the struggling state.
The president ordered emergency federal funding to assist local recovery efforts in the areas affected by the deep freeze since 11 February.
It makes grants available to individuals and businesses for temporary housing, home repairs and low-cost loans.
“Federal funding is also available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency protective measures and hazard mitigation measures statewide,” the White House said in a statement.
“Additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.”
It has been estimated that the cost of recovering from the storm could end up at nearly $50 billion, including clean-up costs, damage repairs and low wages.
More than three million Texans were left without power after an increased demand for heating overwhelmed its energy grid as temperatures plummeted below zero.
While most of those affected by the blackout have now had their power restored, the crisis left homeowners and businesses facing the cost of repairs to burst water pipes and a surge in electricity costs. Authorities also advised around 7 million people in the state to boil their tap water before drinking it.
Meanwhile Texas senator Ted Cruz, a high-profile Republican, faced widespread criticism over his decision to leave to the state to travel to Cancún in Mexico. He has since described it as a “mistake”.
Mr Biden said on Friday he hopes to travel to Texas next week.
At least 69 deaths have been blamed on the extreme weather across the country, with states of emergency declared in Louisiana and Oklahoma.
Power outages also affected Oregon, where the state governor ordered the National Guard to go door-to-door in the hardest-hit areas to ensure residents have enough food and water, while the city of Jackson, Mississippi, was left with no running water as its 100-year-old pipes failed to cope with the freezing temperatures.
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