President Joe Biden has issued a disaster declaration for the state of Texas, where a major winter storm has left millions without power and water.
In a statement released on Saturday morning, the White House said Biden declared “a major disaster exists” in the US state and authorized federal funding and other forms of assistance to aid state and local authorities.
“Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster,” the White House statement reads.
Nearly two dozens of people died while millions of Texans have suffered power outages and water service interruptions after a severe winter storm hit the state on February 11.
Biden said this week he is weighing a trip to Texas, if it would not create a burden on local authorities to analyze the situation and respond to the first crisis after he took the oath of the office.
Power has been restored to many across the state, with just over 78,000 households still without electricity as of Saturday morning, according to PowerOutage.US, which tracks power outages across the country.
But the “disaster has firmly transitioned into a water crisis” as pipes either burst or froze due to extreme cold.
Amidst the crisis, the state is also working to provide food and supplies to residents and to help refineries get back up and running to provide fuel, he said in a statement.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Friday announced plans to open an investigation into the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which supplies power to more than 26 million people in the state, and other power companies over what happened.
Paxton said the probe will examine power outages, emergency plans, energy pricing, and other issues that came up during the disaster.
“While Texans pulled together to get their communities through this disaster, they were largely left in the dark,” Paxton said in a statement. “We will get to the bottom of this power failure and I will tirelessly pursue justice for Texans.”