Joe Biden Vows Colorado FEMA Assistance Will Not Be Impacted By Fiscal Cliff

Vice President addresses looming financial crisis amid devastating flood damage.
21:28 | 09/23/13

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Transcript for Joe Biden Vows Colorado FEMA Assistance Will Not Be Impacted By Fiscal Cliff
This is a special report from ABC news. I'm Dan -- -- this ABC news digital special report vice president Joseph Biden. Is getting a firsthand look at the flooding damage in Colorado and to check in the recovery efforts. Vice president if you -- the damage from helicopter with Colorado governor John Hickenlooper FEMA administrator Craig few -- and other federal officials. They are about to hold a news conference just a few moments but first -- -- to -- -- -- -- who has been monitoring and recovery effort. And it brandy I understand another victim found just today. That's right channel actually a victim was found over the weekend were told it was just confirmed today that this is the eighth person who has been killed by these floodwaters in Colorado. The victim's body was found near a river better along one of those flooded areas where the rivers just overflowed. And of course officials confirming to us today that this is the eighth victim there are still six people were told. Who are unaccounted for -- this does not mean that these people. Are in fact victims as well other states are still holding out hope that some of these people may be alive but their are two people. In one of the counties in Colorado they believe likely when they do you find them they will likely be dad there among the six because their home was just completely destroyed. By the floodwaters when they came troops so far again. The death toll now stands at 8151000. Homes are also damaged or destroyed and many Stanley still have not been allowed to go home -- And -- I understand with a 62 that are still being unaccounted for. Initially when federal official restoring some kind of get a grasp just how significant this damage was that was in the hundreds of the missing. -- -- -- -- it was 12100 when when the initial flood waters came through they thought it was just a couple hundred people and then after may be four days. When they started really trying to get to that outskirts in these areas that we're just devastated they -- the number all the way up to 12100 people. Who were unaccounted for. And now as the days have gone by Ramos and powerful second week here they've been able to establish communication lines and -- That number has drastically gone down now went down to 58 over the weekend and now it's down to six so. They're still holding out hope that they'll find those six people alive but unfortunately officials do worry that at least two of those people are likely also did -- The loss of life obviously first and foremost on everyone's mind at the same time the recovery effort is getting under way do we know the extent. As far as -- the mileage of roads and highways and things that that -- they. Recovery effort is taking place. It's massive and that's what Vice President Biden was really getting that kind of a handle on today despite viewing this from the air we're talking about 2000 square miles -- -- -- land. And a lot of these are outlying towns that were just devastated. There are 200 miles of road that have been completely damaged or destroyed. And right now they're trying to in this recovery effort figure out how they can best repair some of these roads to some extent. They will not to get these roads completely repaired but they -- by Christmas -- by December but they're hoping to get. Many of the roads somewhat repaired so they can still be accessible and useful by December because as you know in that area. The snow in the winter weather starts coming in and they are out of -- during the winter months so that's one of the focuses. When we hear from Vice President Biden today were also -- -- likely be hearing about how the federal government is stepping in with FEMA. And with federal aid 100 million dollars in road repairs will be reimbursed we -- told from the Colorado Department of Transportation when they spend that money to fixing roads the federal government will be reimbursing 100 million dollars of that. However officials in Colorado are now trying to get them to bump that number up closer to 500 billion dollars because they know the damages so extensive -- And it's not only -- the recovery -- haven't -- going forward and in planning ahead on at the same time another seventeen calories and you had mentioned the extent of those the region that they've just been so devastated been affected by this. At the same time because he's never say they have not seen this kind of -- kind of a storm these kinds of rains like this before. Either some areas where they feel as if they just might not even be able to make any kind of recovery kind of repairs to a. I think they're doing the best they -- -- some areas that are just now being able to flush their toilets for the first time -- drink some water and they're they're trying to make. We obviously some of these areas the homes -- this may mean that all the homes I should -- -- some of the homes that they're getting -- starting today. Their red flagging many of them are getting the red -- of a red tag a yellow tag and a green tag green tag means Europe -- to go home and many families are hoping that their homes to agree intact. Yellow tag means families can going to get what they -- that they have to stay away and unsafe but unfortunately many of these homes are being red tagged. These are areas where it's going to be months -- likely because you're talking about steep hillsides. Ground it's not stable roads that are completely gone bridges that are difficult to even get there and still a lot of cleanup effort. Those are the areas that are going to be -- likely you know affected for months down the road -- And in -- we -- over and they wanted to ask you about this is obviously a situation. That is is massive and as widespread as this is obviously difficult to assess the damage and -- to actually put a plan in place. And often times it can be a matter that there might be questions asked whether this strategy when the recovery effort either was fast enough or was the right appropriate and we -- Any problems and any particular areas of those seventeen counties. -- either officials have not been able to get in on in a timely manner or or anywhere -- and in fact that something could have been done earlier. That is been the complaint the issue with something like decent of this magnitude that they've never experienced before is there were single roads that product to some of these small towns network. Completely washed away and so it took. Rescue crews as -- is you've been reporting days to get there and then we saw over that first weekend maybe 45 days later they originally only had four helicopters that were given to them. You know to go in and duty search and rescue efforts by that weekend that -- had gone into more than a -- and it's obviously it takes time and there are some people who have have complained that it took too long. But in an end something like this he also took a look at like you said this is the first time something of this magnitude is ever happened and when you have those remote communities -- only accessible. By one road and you have such widespread devastation. You have to have those emergency personnel in place to decide -- who gets priority first and that's something that they're gonna have to look at the response that they did here. And whether something like this happens again how they can do -- better -- ABC's brandy hit following -- recovery efforts -- thank you so much for that we certainly appreciate that and -- is that we are waiting for vice president Joseph Biden to hold a news conference just moments from now. He is there with FEMA director Craig few -- and -- governor John Hickenlooper. After they have been touring some of the damage. Are in Colorado -- that -- seventeen counties that were hit so hard so devastatingly hard by those massive amounts of rain. And again eight people killed by those flooding six are unaccounted for. That number of six brought down dramatically from 12100 from initial reports when those first storm started coming through. And power lines were knocked down and phone lines were knocked down in. People just simply weren't able to communicate. Into family or friends in fact whip their whereabouts work. And you can -- the Red Cross there just outside as -- and that is the governor right there believe and the vice president's. -- gentlemen please let's listen let me introduced -- be vice president of the United States of America Joseph Biden. York. Well I wish there were not -- of these circumstances. But. I want to start off by thanking. The governor for. The -- today and -- the Colorado National Guard. I'm joined by -- represented Paulus. Kaufman Gartner. And -- and my good buddy Michael Bennett. And I just wanna say to them that. You've been incredibly responsive and thanks for allowing me to come out -- And take a look also on the -- -- here and other -- county commissioners well. I want to thank them for their -- are incredibly responsive. Folks look -- We were where an -- about an hour. Touring the devastation and it is devastation. The stories that I've heard it here and from the gentleman standing behind me. About the sacrifices individual made about three cents a community about how people pull together is pretty amazing. But not at all surprised. Not at all surprised. -- thank by the way all of -- -- code -- and all the Red Cross all the people here and one -- I was saying to. -- Craig you're gay the director of FEMA. You know I've been doing this a long time and -- an awful lot of disaster sites. In my career. And the difference -- statement today. As opposed to 567. Years ago they were good then. But the -- says you -- gaining shares and it's one stop shop. You have a group of people inside. -- the other senators around this state better look and to find an answer for you. They're not giving you a telephone number. They're not saying if you need this help call this number they're saying walked threes -- down. That the table at the end of the table and we'll get this done for you and governor the way you better. Top of this -- they outset is remarkable. Would President Obama issued the disaster declaration of the state. As you all know that provided additional assistance every event from. Cleaning up debris helping people other housing cost. To votes on the ground that are providing technical assistance and helping to search and rescue in the god -- higher today. But not Vermont accounted -- that correct reverend wrong senators -- -- six SI acts. And so things are moment things -- movement in the right direction. -- is able provide temporary housing. -- repaired -- not covered by higher insurance. Medical expenses transportation names. Moving and storage and other support. For those directly impacted. It can talk to -- are represented grant of fourteen shelters that are currently established here. And I can help you figure out what kind of assistance are eligible for. The thing I find most often -- disaster sites. First of all people are absolutely devastated. They cannot believe everything that they have literally has been washed away. And the last thing they need is to be confronted with a group of alphabet agencies that are going to -- fact tell that you can. Do a -- see this idea of not only providing help -- giving them comfort. Forty -- -- onward -- know that everybody inside this building the others are there to help them. It's -- breaking get assistance. And those who are going to be watching this on television. You can get assistance at FEMA dot gov or by calling the help line. At that number is eight under. 621336. To do. That number is 806. -- lot. 3362. -- someone on the other alive it will walk you through. You're needs you tell them what your problem and it's tell them what you're lost. -- then we'll find a way through the maze review. There is hell. The Department of Transportation. His -- The Federal Highway Administration. And are working closely with federal state and local agencies to assess the damage and help restoring essential traffic. And minimize further damages won an exact found most fascinating and devastated and a helicopter ride. Is that so many small communities that are -- isolate. Vice. Waited on one side of a stream or -- side of what now is a raging river. With no physical possibility. Of crossing that -- -- the way it's raging right now. And it's not even -- not -- comparable sense. But it's a lot deeper a lot more rapid that it that it usually and it's. Those folks can't even make it across under a road. The number of highways that have been washed away completely. -- -- city roads that have washed out as well and so there's the ability there's monies available. To help both the federal highway system as well as the local highway system today. The 135. Million dollars approved repair. And reconstruction of roads and bridges that's obviously not going to be enough. But it's gonna continue to coordinate these critical infrastructure needs we talk -- the county commissioner about the needs for bridges bridges right now. -- get back get agricultural products to market so everything is not lost. All of this is under way. Quite frankly. I expected to see it works that I have in a matter just slightly over -- week the progress made thus far is pretty remarkable. I want to keep working with the governor. On long term strategy rebuilding get people back into their homes. Once all these I say to anyone listening. Once all these cameras are gone. Once all the news conference -- over three and a Red Cross are still going to be here. Until we make you whole -- we make it right for you and -- watch it and now. If there's now a lot of you will be in this and his broadcast. Well here probably at a national nerves about the potential for a government shutdown. And it's probably gonna scare the living devil allotted. Well the truth of the matter is is reasonably scared but not in terms. Disaster relate. None of the federal assistance. That we're providing. None of it is going to be impacted even if there is a government shutdown. I don't want folks that it bearish elders are watching on TV. Saying that this function of congress and thinking that all. All -- relief efforts that -- now benefiting from our elected to continue to benefit from -- gonna shut down. They well not shut down even if the congress doesn't fund the federal government -- -- continue resolution. So I probably should the president Ryan -- standing behind you are gonna stay focused on this. As I said the cameras -- that help was got to remain. So I say it's tough residents. And it is tough. I've never felt anything like what the people of this counties counties are going through. But just -- in my home struck by lightly and absolutely devastated. Their sense of loss and I was in good shape. The sense of loss is overwhelming. When you lose your all. It's overwhelming. It affects everything about how you feel what you think and what you do but I promise you I probably should. There will be help it will take some time it's probably your case but immediate help for -- And the rest is available. So as my grandfather would say keep the faith. I promise you we're not going away this day. Local and federal government is not Levy we are going to meet the needs as a consequence of this disaster. God bless you all and may god keep everyone safe thank -- Vice president Joseph -- excuse me Joseph Biden wrapping up that news conference there. After taking a tour of that devastated area in Colorado after. So many parts seventeen counties in fact in all he experienced massive flooding that destroyed about 181000. Homes. And it's responsible for at least eight deaths at this point as he has heard from the vice president at least six people. Are still unaccounted for that is a number -- that is. Dropped dramatically from initial report of 12100. When those -- first started falling. In northwest part of Colorado and I want to bring in ABC's -- send out who -- following a recovery efforts and in Clayton clearly I mean this is. This is a multi department -- federal emergency response. That's being conducted right now. That's right ganymede you'd heard the vice president say it there is a lot of war -- to be done out here and that the place that there are going to try starting first is rebuilding. Some of these roads and in many cases a lot of these towns are cut off because. The roads are completely washed out and there's really only one road in there. And today this state of Colorado. Just been announced but they've they've hired for contracting teams that. Will begin immediately to start rebuilding. Major quarter hours from the flat land the plane there is up and up into the mountains and at this point they're setting up an ambitious goal but they're trying to get. Some of these repairs done by December 1 now it may not be the exact -- that was there but it will be passable and it will be. They expect these roads will be good enough that people will be at least be able to get. To and from their homes and supplies will be able to commerce will be able to flow. Through these mountain areas. It's its ambitious deadlines certainly and the vice president even says so it in summer and and and obviously. But the fact of the matter is that obviously with winter fast approaching -- certainly would be hampering those kinds of efforts to kind of get -- some of those more remote areas. That's right eight -- in any area where you have harsh winters. That all of this road work routine road work always gets done in the Summers. And they have a very compressed. Time schedule to try and get these things -- And are up against some serious. Some serious issues that we we were in the town of lions just a couple of days ago. Which is completely cut off and there are some areas where. The river rose so quickly and so much water came down that the actual. Half of the river has shifted in some cases hundreds of yards. Completely washing out roads -- so now not only are you -- building a road you're having to deal with a river. That is there that that wasn't there before -- and took out just as you heard hundreds thousands of of homes are either damaged or destroyed. And Clayton you have mentioned this commerce -- significant. Industry that has been hampered because of all of this. I was struck by the fact that -- agricultural industries and eight and a half billion dollar a year industry. For Colorado and that obviously has got to be a major concern for like a lot of local businesses and obviously for a lot of this distributions. That's right it's it's normal it's not only tourism up in the mountains and in -- there are tons of small businesses restaurants hotels that are all. Going to be hit very hard by this but even. Out on the plains areas -- all of this water flowed and spilled out over river -- you've got -- Crops lots of farmland out there and -- you know farmers that we talked he told us. We're not flood water gets in their a lot of it is so toxic it's filled with sewage -- chemicals there's been. Problems with a loyal wells that have been flooded and it's billed. Total of around 26000. Gallons of oil went all of that. Gets into the into the water in seats into the soil around crops potentially all of those crops are are lost. And. I wanted to ask you about this -- because the vice president. -- -- -- to applaud the efforts of FEMA not only from from from an administrative point of view but also from a logistical point of view. Have we been here at any kind of problems of people not being able to get the assistance that they need. We haven't heard major complaints about that you know in any in any incident where you have so many people affected over such a wide geographic area. And everyone trying to to get assistance right away. You know there -- always some some hiccups along the way but we we haven't so far heard any major complaint about the. And as we just heard from -- -- -- -- -- -- 35 million dollars has been earmarked for some of those recovery efforts but is -- possible that that could be increased. Bit there is I think that it this state is also kicking in some of its own money the governor kicked in another twenty million dollars -- believe over the weekend. They're gonna see how far they can get with with what they have now and and figure out whether they need more. Her all right ABC's things send -- in Colorado monitoring and recovery efforts -- thank you for that. Of course have a complete report on abcnews.com. As Colorado is making that recovery from those devastating rains and flooding. Last week for now I'm -- -- -- New York with this ABC news digital special report. This has been a special group. Report from -- soon.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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