The Biden administration has been roundly criticized for its handling of a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, earlier this month.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has been largely missing from the equation as locals worry about the short- and long-term effects of exposure to the toxic chemicals released into the atmosphere after the crash.
Furthermore, Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said the disaster did not appear to qualify for Federal Emergency Management Agency resources.
On Thursday, his office asserted: “The DeWine Administration has been in daily contact with FEMA to discuss the need for federal support, however, FEMA continues to tell Governor DeWine that Ohio is not eligible for assistance at this time.”
The federal agency appeared to change its tune by the following day, however and confirmed that it would be sending a team to assess the situation and determine what relief the community might be eligible to receive.
Tomorrow, we'll supplement federal efforts by deploying a Senior Response Official & a Regional Incident Management Assistance Team to support ongoing operations, including incident coordination & ongoing assessments of potential long term recovery needs.https://t.co/pVLIm5tE3h
— FEMA (@fema) February 18, 2023
In fact, the update came just hours after former President Donald Trump, who is currently campaigning for another term in office, announced that he would be traveling to East Palestine.
It also came on the heels of a letter from Ohio’s entire congressional delegation asking FEMA administrators why requests for assistance were denied.
“Despite the severity of the wreckage, chemical release, and the disruption to the lives of local residents, we have just been informed that Ohio apparently does not meet the eligibility for FEMA assistance at this time,” the letter stated. “We respectfully request that you provide a detailed response as to why the residents of this community do not qualify for assistance from your agency.”
The coincidental timing has resulted in widespread speculation that FEMA was motivated by Trump’s announcement to finally stage an appearance in the community.
Donald Trump Jr. seemed to confirm earlier reports about his father’s plans to visit the site of the derailment.
“If our ‘leaders’ are too afraid to actually lead real leaders will step up and fill the void,” he tweeted on Friday.
The White House confirmed earlier in the day that there were no plans for President Joe Biden to visit East Palestine.