President Joe Biden issued a major disaster declaration after Hurricane Ian slammed into Florida, ordering federal aid to supplement recovery efforts in the state.
Following the president’s actions, some people on social media and news headlines have claimed that Vice President Kamala Harris said the Biden administration will prioritize “communities of color” when distributing hurricane relief. The posts shared on Twitter include a 40-second clip of Harris speaking at a Democratic National Committee (DNC) forum.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fl.) made a similar claim during an Oct. 2 appearance on CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” which was refuted by host Margaret Brennan.
“Harris said…if you have a different skin color, you’re going to get relief,” Scott said on the show.
Did Vice President Kamala Harris say Hurricane Ian relief will be directed toward “communities of color”?
- Conversation between Vice President Kamala Harris and actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas at the DNC Women’s Leadership Forum
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Press Secretary Jeremy Edwards
- FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell on “Face the Nation”
- White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre
No, Vice President Kamala Harris did not say Hurricane Ian relief will be directed toward “communities of color.”
WHAT WE FOUND
The clip shared on social media leaves out important context about the full exchange between Harris and actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Women’s Leadership Forum on Sept. 30.
Harris spoke broadly during her conversation with Chopra Jonas about the impacts of climate change and equitable distribution of resources. In the video clip that went viral, she was responding to a question from Chopra Jonas about how the Biden administration is addressing the climate crisis and disparities within “the poorest communities” in general, not about specific plans for Hurricane Ian relief.
In response to Chopras Jonas’ question, Harris said, “And in particular on the disparities, as you have described rightly, which is that it is our lowest income communities and our communities of color that are most impacted by these extreme conditions and impacted by issues that are not of their own making.”
“We have to address this in a way that is about giving resources based on equity, understanding that we fight for equality but we also need to fight for equity,” Harris continued. “Understanding that not everyone starts out at the same place and if we want people to be in an equal place, sometimes we have to take into account those disparities and do that work.”
During the conversation, Harris briefly addressed Hurricane Ian, saying, “I know we are all thinking about the families in Florida, in Puerto Rico with [Hurricane] Fiona — and what we need to do to help them in terms of an immediate response and aid, but also what we need to do to help restore communities and build communities back up in a way that they can be resilient — not to mention, adapt — to these extreme weather conditions, which are part of the future.”
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Press Secretary Jeremy Edwards refuted the claims shared on social media, writing in a statement to VERIFY that “the Vice President was referring to a different issue at the time and her comments were focused on long-term climate investments.”
“As the administration has said across the board, we support all communities, and at FEMA we have undertaken a number of initiatives to make our recovery and resilience programs more accessible,” Edwards said. “As Administrator Criswell told the Governor, FEMA will support all Floridians and help them navigate our various programs.”
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell appeared on “Face the Nation” on Oct. 2, where she responded to questions from the show’s host Margaret Brennan about Sen. Scott’s comments that people “with a different skin color” will receive Hurricane Ian relief.
“Our programs support everybody,” Criswell said. “I would say I believe some of the things the vice president was talking about are the long-term recovery and rebuilding these communities to be able to withstand disasters so they can have less impact. We’re going to support all communities.”
In response to a reporter’s question on Oct. 3 about whether Harris suggested that “people of color will get an advantage of some kind with the rebuilding efforts” after Hurricane Ian, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also clarified that the vice president’s comments were taken out of context.
“So that is not what the vice president said,” Jean-Pierre said. “The vice president was clearly talking about long-term investment, not FEMA aid, for hurricane response efforts.”
Victims of the storm from designated Florida counties can also visit their nearest Disaster Recovery Center for help in applying for assistance. Representatives from FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration are available at the centers to explain disaster assistance programs and to answer any questions.