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Biden: Federal government will cover 100% of emergency service costs in western Kentucky after tornadoes

The president visited Mayfield and Dawson Springs, Ky. Wednesday after deadly tornadoes destroyed homes and claimed the lives of at least 74 people.

KENTUCKY, USA — President Joe Biden said the federal government is planning to cover all emergency service costs for the first 30 days as communities in western Kentucky work to clean up storm damage following Friday night's deadly tornadoes.

The president visited Mayfield and Dawson Springs, Ky. Wednesday to survey storm damage with Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear. Biden arrived in Ft. Campbell for a storm briefing before visiting the hardest-hit communities.

“The scope and scale of this destruction is almost beyond belief,” Biden said.

During a press conference in Dawson Springs, the president announced that he was able to approve a request from Gov. Beshear to provide funding for services including removing debris, overtime for law enforcement and other first responders, and emergency shelter.

Biden said the state currently has seven shelters taking care of at least 300 people who were displaced because of the storms.

"I intend to do whatever it takes, as long as it takes...to support your state, your local leaders and as you recover and rebuild," he said.

In a series of tweets, Biden said the federal government has sent 61 generators, provided 144,000 liters of drinking water and 74,000 meals to Kentucky.

"No one is walking away," the president said. "We're in this for the long haul."

During Biden's visit, First Lady Britainy Beshear provided an update on the toy drive she started earlier this week. So far, more than 20,000 toys have been collected for children affected by the storms. The drive runs through Saturday, Dec. 18.

How to help Western Kentucky families

Biden signed a Federal Emergency Disaster Declaration on Dec. 11 after Beshear sent a letter requesting help Saturday morning. The declaration opens up a lot of opportunities and resources for the state, such as immediate reimbursement for the things they are doing to clean up the damage and get help to Kentuckians impacted by the severe weather.

"That rarely happens in the midst of a disaster and it shows how bad it is," said Beshear after Biden signed the declaration.

As of Wednesday, the storm is blamed for at least 74 deaths so far. Governor Beshear said the ages of the victims range from 2 months old to 98 years old. 

Right now, it is believed there are more than 120 Kentuckians still unaccounted for that rescue teams are hoping to find. 300 National Guard members are assisting with rescue and recovery efforts.

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