President Joe Biden on Thursday praised the Federal Emergency Management Agency for its response to Hurricane Ian, telling the room full of FEMA workers that they're restoring Americans' faith in their government.
Biden stopped to speak to the workers after attending a FEMA briefing on the hurricane's devastation in Florida. He said over the past six to 10 years, faith in government institutions has been eroding.
"You are reinforcing people's faith in institutions," Biden said at the FEMA headquarters. "Thank you, thank you, thank you."
Restoring trust in government and its institutions has long been a pillar of the Biden's agenda, and was a focal point of his campaign for president as he challenged Donald Trump in 2020. During Biden's first year in office, he signed an executive order aimed at this priority, making it easier for Americans to renew passports, apply for Social Security and receive aid after facing natural disasters - the idea being to put public interest and customer service at the center of government operations.
The public's trust in government has remained low through much of the 21st Century. But the data is approaching a new all-time low, according to the latest research from Pew Research Center that found that just 20 percent of Americans feel that "they trust the government in Washington to do the right thing just about always or most of the time."
During Thursday's speech, Biden thanked FEMA again and other federal employees for their emergency response.
"I've seen you in action all across the country from the West coast of the Northwest and the Northeast, down in Louisiana, all across this country," Biden said. "And just in the last two weeks, you've been working 24/7. No matter what, when emergencies happen, FEMA is always there. You deserve the nation's gratitude and full support."
Asked Thursday about his calls with GOP Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Biden brushed off the divergent politics and rhetorical sparring between the two men that have escalated in recent weeks ahead of November's midterm elections. Already Biden has issued a disaster declaration in the state, which will provide Florida with federal aid to supplement state, local and tribal recovery efforts in impacted areas. The president also said he will travel to Florida when conditions allow.
"This is not about anything having to do with our disagreements politically. This is about saving people's lives, homes and businesses," he said. "That's what this is about."