President Biden on Thursday proposed updating Ronald Reagan’s famously cynical view of government — telling New York leaders that authorities “really are” going to help the victims of Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico.
“We’re surging federal resources to Puerto Rico,” Biden said at a briefing in Lower Manhattan.
“And we’ll do everything, everything we can to meet the urgent needs you have and we know they’re real and they’re significant. And we’re there. And I know, bad joke, ‘I’m from the federal government and I’m here to help.’ But we really are.”
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams attended the event at the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s office in One World Trade Center.
Biden said Thursday he was ordering the federal government to reimburse 100% of Puerto Rico’s expenses for “debris removal, search and rescue, power and water restoration, and shelter and food for a month.”
The president took no questions from reporters during the FEMA stop and didn’t answer a shouted inquiry about whether he plans to visit Puerto Rico.
The storm made landfall Sunday as a category one hurricane and knocked out power to the entire island.
Biden sought to demonstrate a hands-on approach to the hurricane aftermath after his predecessor Donald Trump faced criticism for the pace of humanitarian and rebuilding efforts after the much more powerful category four storm Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017.
Reagan made his famous pronouncement on government at a 1986 press conference while specifically addressing economic issues for farmers — rather than emergency response efforts.
“I’ve always felt the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help,’” Reagan said. “A great many of the current problems on the farm were caused by government-imposed embargoes and inflation, not to mention government’s long history of conflicting and haphazard policies.”