City workers and volunteers are handing out bottled water on Wednesday, February 19, 2021 at Delmar Stadium in Houston, Texas, USA.
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President Joe Biden has endorsed a major disaster statement for Texas as the state grapples with widespread power outages and water shortages in freezing winter conditions, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said on Saturday.
The move unlocks federal funding for individuals in Texas, grants for temporary home and home repairs, and low-cost loans to cover uninsured property damage.
Millions of Texans are grappling with power outages and more than half of the state are suffering from disrupted water supplies as boiling water reports are in effect. More than 14 million people in Texas have been asked to boil their water as of Friday because portions of the state's water supply may be contaminated.
The statement also provides funding for cost-sharing with state and local governments, as well as some private not-for-profit organizations, for emergency preparedness and risk mitigation measures. Help is available in dozens of counties.
The federal government has already approved emergency statements for Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana, and shipped supplies such as generators, blankets, water, and meals to Texas last week.
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Biden plans to visit Texas as early as next week to assess the federal response. The president said he will make a final decision after making sure his presence does not hamper recovery efforts. The government has worked closely with Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott on disaster relief.
The Texas Electric Reliability Council (ERCOT) announced Friday that it has returned to normal conditions, restoring power for millions of customers. According to PowerOutage.us, more than 78,000 people in Texas had no electricity on Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m.
A shopper walks past a bare shelf as people stock up on essentials at the H-E-B grocery store in Austin, Texas on February 18, 2021.
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Alison Silverstein, an independent energy advisor and former strategic advisor to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, predicted that 20 million or more Texans could be forced to boil water.
In addition to the declaration of the major disaster, the US Environmental Protection Agency issued an emergency waiver for Texas on Friday. The immediate exemption enables the state to temporarily waive certain fuel standards in order to address the gas shortage in the affected areas.
Texas refineries had disrupted about a fifth of the country's oil production during the outages and freezing temperatures. Oil prices fell from recent highs on Friday as companies were ready to resume production as soon as electricity services resumed.