CNN anchor Sara Sidner questioned Karine Jean-Pierre Thursday after the White House press secretary urged victims of the Maui wildfires to use the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website and phone line to request help, despite a lack of power on the devastated island.
More than 100 people are dead as a result of the wildfires, and Gov. Josh Green, D-Hawaii, warned that scores more bodies could yet be found. President Joe Biden has been blasted for relaxing on a beach in Delaware and telling reporters he had "no comment" on the situation in Maui.
Amid a firestorm of criticism about the president's response, Jean-Pierre said Biden has enlisted the help of local, state, and federal partners.
"This is something that the president takes very seriously," she said. "You've heard from the FEMA administrator: there's more than 600 personnel and staffers on the ground. They've already provided $2.3 million of family assistance.
"And for those in Maui, in Hawaii, who are still looking to get that federal assistance, please go, call 1-800-621-FEMA. Go to disaster assistance.gov. We are here to help, the federal government is here to assist, to make sure that they get everything that they need to rebuild and recover."
The CNN anchor then questioned Jean-Pierre about her statement and pointed to a litany of problems the people of Maui are currently experiencing.
"You talk about people having to call that number; they have to register, as we understand it," Sidner said. "Call the number, go to the website. But here is the big problem that we're hearing on the ground: there is no power, they are having very spotty cell service, it's very difficult to communicate, and they are restricted in their movement.
"So what can FEMA do better to help alleviate some of these issues for people who are saying, 'We are not getting the help we need?'"
Jean-Pierre responded that FEMA is "on the ground" and "doing everything that they can."
"Obviously, this is a dynamic situation, as you've heard directly from the [FEMA] administrator," she said. "We're working with the cell companies to try to make sure that communication happens. I mentioned that FEMA has already provided and given $2.3 million of family assistance, so it's getting out there.
"Our job, and she has said this as well, and the federal government personnel job is to make sure that we communicate that, that we get that to the folks on the ground, and we will be there."
The White House announced that Biden and first lady Jill Biden will travel to Maui on Monday to survey the damage from the wildfires and meet with first responders and survivors, as well as federal, state, and local officials.
Nicole Wells ✉
Nicole Wells, a Newsmax general assignment reporter covers news, politics, and culture. She is a National Newspaper Association award-winning journalist.
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