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Trump Approves Major Disaster Declaration In Florida Amid Irma

CAMP DAVID, Maryland (CBSNewYork/CBS News) — President Donald Trump approved a major disaster declaration for Florida Sunday afternoon, as Hurricane Irma pounded the state.

The declaration makes federal funding available to those affected in counties in both east and west coastal Florida and the Keys – including Charlotte, Collier, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Pinellas, and Sarasota.

Miami, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Fort Myers, Punta Gorda, Cape Coral, Sarasota, Bradenton and the Florida Keys are located in the affected counties.

Assistance can include such things as grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans for uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners.

Federal funding is also available to the state and to tribal and eligible local governments, as well as some private nonprofits on a cost-sharing basis, for emergency work in all 67 Florida counties.

The funding covers direct federal assistance and other emergency measures, and is authorized at 100 percent of total costs.

“We are concerned about lives, not cost,” Trump said.

Irma plowed through the Florida Keys earlier Sunday and was marching up the state’s West Coast through the afternoon and evening.

CBS News reported Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and several Cabinet members earlier participated in a briefing on Irma from Camp David — the presidential retreat where Mr. Trump has spent the weekend monitoring the storm.

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White House Director of Social Media Dan Scavino tweeted photos from the Sunday morning briefing, where Mr. Trump was also joined by First Lady Melania Trump and Karen Pence.

The White House said Trump had spoken with the governors of Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee. Irma could affect all four states.

Following the meeting at Camp David, Pence joined cabinet secretaries Rick Perry, Tom Price, Steve Mnuchin, Wilbur Ross, David Shulkin and Alexander Acosta at Federal Emergency Management Agency’s headquarters in D.C.

At a briefing with FEMA administrator Brock Lock and Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, Energy Secretary Perry said the Trump administration “tipped their hat” to FEMA for what he called an “extraordinary” storm.

“To be faced with what you’ve faced here, you all look amazingly perky for the lack of sleep you’ve had,” commented Perry on the long hours FEMA workers have put in over the past few days of Irma preparations.

After meeting with FEMA employees and thanking them for their help in the storm’s efforts, Pence said the administration continues to provide the “full weight of the government” to support the state of Florida and Gov. Rick Scott.

“Every resource of the federal government is being brought to bear to support state and local efforts,” said Pence on Sunday. He added, “The American people can be proud of efforts underway.”

Pence went on to warn of the seriousness of the storm’s impact, urging residents to heed the warnings of state and local officials.

“We need to remain vigilant, people need to take warnings seriously, and people of Florida need to know that our hearts and prayers, and all efforts, are with them,” added Pence.

Asked what aspects of the storm concerned the administration the most, Pence said “the briefing at Camp David this morning caused the president to have great concern” as experts have warned of dangerous and heavy winds pushing a crippling storm surge in its path.

Pence also relayed a message from Trump himself: “Our mission here is, “Where ever Irma goes, we’ll be there first. We’ll be there with resources and support to save lives and help build lives.”

CBS News’ Bo Erickson contributed to this report.

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