WARNER ROBINS, Ga. – President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrived in Warner Robins Monday afternoon to assess Hurricane Michael damage in middle Georgia.
Trump was greeted by Gov. Nathan Deal at Robins Air Force Base prior to leaving the base to survey damage to homes, businesses and Georgia’s cotton and pecan crops.
Trump arrived in Georgia after leaving the hard hit Florida Panhandle earlier Monday morning. Hurricane Michael killed at least 19 people, while dozens in Florida still remained unaccounted for as of Monday.
Sunday, Trump declared a major disaster in Georgia and ordered federal aid to supplement state, tribal and local recovery efforts beginning Oct. 9 and continuing as long as needed, according to a statement from the White House. This means federal funding will be available to affected people in Baker, Decatur, Dougherty, Early, Miller and Seminole counties.
State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said workers in these affected counties may qualify for the federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance to compensate for income lost as a direct result of Michael.
“The heavy damage that resulted from last week’s storm forced businesses to close for repairs, leaving owners and employees without incomes,” Butler said. “These federal benefits help provide a financial bridge until their incomes resume.”
DUA is a federal program established to help workers whose primary income is lost, or interrupted, as a direct result of a disaster declared by the president. Applicants may be eligible for a weekly benefit of as much as $330 beginning the week of Oct. 14.
Those who were directly impacted by Michael and inside the authorized counties must first apply for regular unemployment insurance on the Georgia Department of Labor website at dol.georgia.gov or in person at any career center.
Deal said, "On behalf of Georgians, I’m tremendously grateful for the immediate attention and extremely quick assistance President Trump and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have given Georgia’s requests for federal aid, as well as the president’s concern for our citizens."
Deal said the federal disaster declaration will provide what he called "much-needed assistance in the most heavily impacted areas." He said the money will "help families and businesses recover as quickly as possible. I am also encouraged by the hard work and dedication of everyone involved in response and recovery efforts, including emergency management officials, first responders, recovery teams, law enforcement and citizens helping their neighbors.”
President Trump did not address the press or stand for questions when he arrived at Robins Air Force Base. After visiting the Georgia Operations Center for the American Red Cross in nearby Macon, Trump joined Deal and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, former Georgia governor, for a briefing.
A transcript provided by the White House reported Trump as saying, "I want to thank FEMA. First responders, the law enforcement has been so incredible. Secretary Nielsen, you worked so hard. I don’t think — have you gone to sleep in the last two weeks? I don’t think so. (Laughter.) But your whole team has been fantastic. And, Governor, I’d like to thank you on behalf of the country. What a job you’ve done in Georgia. And I have to say Rick Scott in Florida, likewise. The two of you have really done something."
When asked by pool reporters about climate change, the transcript indicates Trump said, "There’s something there. There’s no question. There is something there — manmade or not. I mean, there’s something there. And it’s going to go, and it’s going to go back and forth. But there is something there." Later, he described himself as "truly an environmentalist."
State and federal officials also announced this week that funding is available to state, tribal and local governments, along with some private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work in Baker, Bleckley, Burke, Calhoun, Colquitt, Crisp, Decatur, Dodge, Dooly, Dougherty, Early, Emanuel, Grady, Houston, Jefferson, Jenkins, Johnson, Laurens, Lee, Macon, Miller, Mitchell, Pulaski, Seminole, Sumter, Terrell, Thomas, Treutlen, Turner, Wilcox and Worth counties.
State Farm, the largest insurer of homes and cars in the state, has received about 730 total auto and about 5,010 total homeowner claims in Georgia as of Oct. 12. State Farm said it anticipates more claims being filed as people return to their properties and assess damages.
"During this recovery process, we stress to those affected the importance of safely reviewing damages,” the insurance provider said. "Some areas have downed power lines that may still be live as well as trees that could still fall."