Gov. Baker says he thanked Obama for federal aid after snows
BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker says he thanked President Barack Obama personally during his Labor Day visit to Boston for federal disaster officials’ help after a series of snowstorms pounded the state in January and February.
Baker, a Republican, greeted Obama at Logan Airport Monday ahead of the president’s visit with fellow Democratic leaders at the city’s annual Labor Day breakfast.
Baker said he told Obama that he welcomed the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s efforts as the state tried to get back on its feet from storms that ultimately dumped more than 9 feet of snow, breaking the city’s record for a winter.
“They said they would put a lot of people on the ground to help us do the documentation and review on all the issues around snow removal for reimbursement purposes, and they followed through on that,” Baker told reporters Tuesday.
Baker said probably 100 people from the agency were in Massachusetts documenting the damage and helping those seeking federal help.
“I told him that I appreciated that,” he added.
Obama signed a disaster declaration ordering federal aid for recovery from the blizzard that hit the region from Jan. 26-28, the first of a series of major storms that at times brought travel to a halt and forced the suspension of public transit, including subway service.
The state also reported 25 weather-related deaths, including pedestrians struck by snow plows, fatal falls involving people attempting to clear snow from roofs and heart attacks from shoveling snow.
Baker had initially asked the federal government to declare the entire 28-day period of severe winter weather as a single, continuous disaster.
But FEMA limited its declaration to the 48-hour period of the January blizzard, which Baker estimated could make available between $80 million and $90 million in snow removal reimbursement for the state and some 250 cities and towns.
Baker later asked federal officials to extend the period from 48 to 72 hours. That request was also denied.
Asked if he attempted to give Obama a hug — like another northeast Republican governor in the wake of a natural disaster, New Jersey’s Chris Christie — Baker joked, “I think we patted each other awkwardly on the back.”