WASHINGTON, DC – This week, heavy rain and snowmelt has caused significant flooding across Rhode Island.  Some residents were forced to evacuate by boats or with the assistance of firefighters and have been displaced into emergency evacuation facilities.

With extreme flooding incidents impacting residents and neighborhoods in several communities, the state’s Congressional delegation is asking President Joe Biden to quickly approve any request from the Governor for federal flood recovery assistance.

U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Seth Magaziner and Gabe Amo sent a letter to President Biden urging the White House to approve a disaster declaration under the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act if it is submitted by the state.  A federal declaration would provide communities in need with timely access to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding to assist with responding to and recovering from this storm.

On Wednesday, Governor McKee took a critical step in the process by signing a state Declaration of Disaster Emergency.

Earlier this week, President Biden granted Rhode Island’s request for a major disaster declaration related to flooding and tornadoes from last September.  It can take time for a disaster declaration to be requested as the state conducts damage assessments and documents the need for assistance.  Under the Stafford Act, certain thresholds for federal assistance must be met in order to qualify for a Major Disaster Declaration.

“We are grateful to President Biden for assisting Rhode Islanders with the September floods.  If the state submits another request to help with the current flooding, we would strongly urge the President to use his powers under the Stafford Act to approve a disaster declaration.  This designation would assist communities that are working to recover from severe flooding due to excessive snowmelt and up to 5 inches of rain in certain parts of the state.  These extreme weather events have caused significant damage, and it’s important for the state and federal governments to work together to speed disaster assistance where it is most needed,” Reed, Whitehouse, Magaziner and Amo said in a joint statement.

The historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs law (P.L. 117-58), which Senators Reed and Whitehouse helped pass in 2021, includes a historic $12 billion for flood mitigation efforts.

The Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency (RIEMA) encourages residents and businesses that need to report flooding damage to their properties to contact their local Emergency Manager for their city or town.  For more information visit: https://riema.ri.gov/

Full text of the letter follows:

January 10, 2024

The Honorable Joseph R. Biden, Jr.

The White House

Washington D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

From January 9-10, Rhode Island was impacted by a severe storm that delivered heavy rainfall, damaging winds, and widespread, significant flooding across the state. 

These rains have overwhelmed storm water systems and rivers, submerged cars, closed local and state roads, flooded and forced evacuations from homes and apartment complexes.  According to National Weather Service data, much of the state received at least 3 inches of rainfall, with isolated pockets receiving over 5 inches of rainfall.  The Pawcatuck, Pawtuxet, and Blackstone Rivers, three major watersheds, are in flood stage and still rising.  

As our first responders and local communities work to ensure public safety, clean up and assess flood damage, we urge you to expeditiously approve any request from the State of Rhode Island for an emergency or disaster declaration under the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.

Thank you for your assistance and leadership.