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Biden Set To Visit Flood-Ravaged Communities In NY And NJ; Louisiana Dealing With Power And Fuel Shortages Week After Ida; Biden Instructs DOJ To Seek Ways To Protect Abortion Access In TX; Pandemic Jobless Benefits Expire, Impacting Millions Of Americas. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired September 06, 2021 - 13:30   ET




ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: President Biden has approved a major disaster declaration for New York. It comes a day before he tours areas in the northeast damaged by the remnants of Ida.

At least 50 people died in the storm in that region. Once the flood waters receded, many survivors returned to homes in ruins. And now streets are lined with piles of water-soaked debris.

CNN correspondent, Polo Sandoval, is in Queens, New York.

What are people in the neighborhood, Polo, hoping to hear from President Biden when he visits?

POLO SANDOVAL, CORRESPONDENT: It's hard to believe, Erica, the storm swept through and flooded this five days ago and the cleanup continues.

These are scenes I have seen along the gulf coast. Regions used to dealing with hurricanes and the aftermath and areas where family members have over and over again had to clean out their homes.

These are pictures in Queens. Mainly woodside Queens. As you look all the way down this alley, this is -- these are scenes that repeat themselves.

It was earlier today that the New York mayor today accompanied by Chuck Schumer and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez walked down this street and met with at least members of one home. They were met with some very frustrated residents.

I had a conversation with the owner of this right here. He hopes that this -- what we saw to play out in Queens will be more than a photo op. The words they heard today will translate to actions.

And when it comes to what they are specifically looking for, it's a short-term help and also long-term. In terms of the short-term, it's really more of that individual assistance. We know that President Biden authorized that emergency declaration

that hopefully will expedite the individual assistance for residents of New York and for neighboring New Jersey that was hit particularly hard.

And also long-term, what will be done to keep these kinds of communities from flooding again.

Those are questions they are asking, especially before the commander- in-chief visits New York tomorrow.

HILL: You're right. If this is more common, how do they prepare for it? When you come home to neighborhoods like this in New York City, it's not what we're used to seeing when we come home.

Polo Sandoval, appreciate it as always.

Down south, hundreds of thousands struggling to survive without power one week after Hurricane Ida slammed the Louisiana coast. And making that situation worse today, two weather threats, possible flash flooding and dangerous heat.

CNN national correspondent, Nadia Romero, is in LaPlace, Louisiana.

Any relief at this point in sight?

NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica, just what you were talking about. Rain. Another area rain shower making its way through an area that saw plenty of devastation.

People's roofs are open. They're trying to get up tarps to keep more rain from getting inside of their homes.

I want to introduce you to a homeowner here, Donielle.

Donielle, you have been gracious enough to let us into your home. Talk to us about the damage that you suffered since the hurricane.

DONIELLE EAST-MITTER, LAPLACE RESIDENT: We suffered a lot of roof damage. We have three holes in our ceiling. Luckily we have a tarp.

We had about a foot of water. We have mold building up. It's super hot. We have no service here. No tv. It's devastating. And running on generators, it's taking a lot of gas to make sure we're comfortable.

ROMERO: You've already started the process of removing everything from inside of your home, because of the mold and because everything was soaking wet. Now it's out in your lawn and you're waiting to see what services will come out to take this away?

EAST-MITTER: Yes. We don't know exactly when they're coming. We did hear they might start this week or next week. It could take up todays to get this debris out. We don't know.

ROMERO: It will take likely weeks before you get your power back on. What has the response been like? Have you been able to reach out to FEMA, your insurance company, any state or local leaders?

EAST-MITTER: We've been having a lot of trouble with featuring out with FEMA and companies. Sometimes we have to go four or five miles or find somewhere where there are local officials.

ROMERO: You don't have cell service here. We had trouble trying to get in contact with you.

Let's show what's behind you. Inside your home is unlivable right now because of the mold and everything.

So you're moving into this trailer truck, but now you're going to live inside here?

EAST-MITTER: Originally we bought it to be a food truck, and then we were blessed to get our food truck. My husband had it in storage. He was like we could just live in here while we work on our home.

So we're going to be transitioning with bed and air-conditioning so we can be comfortable. The mold is getting really bad inside the house.


ROMERO: Now you're in this temporary trailer. You told me earlier you had a name. Because you're keeping a light heart. I don't know how.

EAST-MITTER: Well, I decided to be blessed, because I am being blessed by a lot of people doing stuff. Having a negative attitude doesn't make it better.

The mental interpretation is terrible, but I have to choose happiness. We've been working together with family and friends in prayer. It's been helping us be the best we can be.

And we're going to call her Ida Baby. She's going to be the one to keep us safe during these times.

ROMERO: Ida Baby, the spin on the hurricane that put you in the trailer. The safe place that doesn't have mold. Has air-conditioning while you rebuild because you're not going anywhere?

EAST-MITTER: No, we're not leaving. Our parents are here. Us leaving be great. We have to wait for adjusters. Because we have spotty service, we don't know when they're coming. Being on hand is the best to be.

ROMERO: And you have a food truck, and even though you're going through a hard time, you want to make sure you can get your truck up and running to feed your neighbors?

EAST-MITTER: Yes, we have been feeding our neighbors, but once we get out of here, we'll go around to different neighborhoods and churches and feed people. If you give back, it helps you with the devastation you're going on.

We originally got a food truck because when we had Hurricane Isaac, the Red Cross fed us. We made a vow when we got a food truck, we were going to feed people. If I can't keep you warm or cool, I can keep your belly full.

ROMERO: That is beautiful. Thank you for sharing that with us. Thank you for sharing with your neighbors, even when you're in need.

And, Erica, that's the spirit that we've encountered from people all across this area. Even though they're on day eight without having power, no air-conditioning, and now it's raining again. Erica?

HILL: And, Nadia, such an incredibly powerful and important story. Thank you for keeping us up to date.

And also for introducing us to Donielle. I think we all need more of her in this world. Good to know she's there and really just lifting her community up.

You may have noticed trouble with the shot. The rain moving through as you noticed. Folks down there struggling with that as well.

We'll keep you updated on what's happening across the country with the cleanup from Ida.

Meantime, we're also keeping a close watch on Texas where the new abortion law there's putting Roe v. Wade in jeopardy. The law all but certain to be challenged. The big question is, what happens now? A legal expert joins me to discuss, next.



HILL: The Justice Department is scrambling to find ways to counteract the new abortion law in Texas after the Supreme Court punted on the issue.

The Texas law bans abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy. That's before many women are aware. There's no exceptions for rape or incest.

And it enables any Texan to sue anyone believed in being involved in an abortion and they can get $10,000 for doing so.

Let's dig into it with CNN legal analyst and civil rights attorney, Areva Martin.

Areva, it's the bounty aspect. Legal experts say that's what could make the law survive court challenges. Walk us through that.

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. Typically, when a state legislature passes a law, the enforcement of that law is in the province of state officials. And when you challenge that law, you are filing a lawsuit against those state officials.

What the legislators in Texas did was rather unusual. And rather purposeful. They purposefully made the enforcement of this very restrictive abortion law, they put it in the hands of everyday citizens. As you said, what we're now terming abortion bounty hunters.

Individuals can sue someone they believe has violated or is about to violate this law and can recover money, $10,000, for doing so.

It's made the process of filing a challenge difficult. You're not suing your typical state officials. They're individuals.

What the state attorney general for Texas said is, wait a minute, the Supreme Court doesn't even have jurisdiction over any lawsuits relevant to this statute as of yet.

And what has to happen is an individual has to go into a state court in Texas, file a lawsuit and it's only then that this law can be examined.

So it's making it very difficult for opponents to challenge it.

HILL: And I will say I think that has a lot of people scratching their head. If somebody went in to file a lawsuit, they can't file it against the governor of the state, the legislators who came up with the law?

MARTIN: That's exactly what's happening here. That's what's making challenging this law so incredibly difficult. You have to go in and sue individuals.

And that's very -- that's very different than what we've seen in other restrictive abortion laws.


And that's what's making this so incredibly hard for those that have been fighting for choice and fighting for women to have the right to make choices over their own reproductive health.

HILL: In terms of making choice, there's no exception for rape or incest. It's so upsetting for so many reasons. It's so upsetting for so many reasons.

It also as we're look agent the way the law is structured, those working at rape crisis centers can't discuss abortion as a potential option.

MARTIN: Absolutely. This law is having a chilling effect on proponents of reproductive health for women.

We know that 90 percent of clinics in the state of Texas have said this law will essentially shut them down. They won't be able to open their doors or perform abortion procedures for women.

We know this law will impact women of color. If you're a wealthy woman living in Texas, you can get on a plane and fly outside the state. You may have other options. If you're poor or a woman of color, you won't have those options.

This law has a disproportionate impact on women of color. HILL: That's an important point.

Also the attorney general vowing that he would support Texas abortion clinics that may be attacked. That sounds good, but tell me realistically, what can be done in terms of the attorney general?

MARTIN: I'm glad you asked that question.

Because what we've heard from President Biden is that he's going to take a whole of government approach to support women in the state of Texas and to give them the reproductive rights they deserve and what Roe v. Wade has afforded them for over 50 years.

It's not clear what that will look like.

We know the Justice Department is looking at federal legislation that may be able to be used against those abortion bounty hunters if those individuals are engaged in intimidating or harassing women who are attempting to enforce their constitutional rights.

Because as of now, Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land. It hasn't specifically been overturned by the Supreme Court. Although, effectively, it's been nullified by this recent decision.

But the Justice Department is looking at what is at its -- what does it have available to it in terms of federal statutes that may be used to prevent these bounty hunters for going after women who are just trying to enforce their own rights to control their bodies.

HILL: Areva, appreciate it. Thank you.

MARTIN: Thank you.

HILL: Coming up, pandemic unemployment benefits just expired leaving millions of Americans without those enhanced jobless payments. So what's the impact? That's next.



HILL: On this Labor Day, millions of jobless Americans are losing all of their unemployment benefits as federal pandemic aid expires.

CNN's Alison Kosik joining us now.

Alison, this money has kept a number of families afloat, put food on the table during the pandemic.

Give us a sense of the impact, the number of people impacted with this end in benefits.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Erica, this is impacting about 11 million American. You break that down, it comes out to eight million losing all of their unemployment benefits today and another 2.7 million people losing the $300 weekly federal subsidy. In all, the government spent about $800 billion in unemployment

assistance. It never was meant to last forever. It was really just meant as a short-term fix to prop up the economy and households.

It really was a much-needed lifeline for millions struggling to pay bills and having gut-wrenching worry about what their financial future would look like.

Even though the pandemic continued, but will we see workers flood into the labor market as the benefits end? It's a question that became quite political.

We did see critics say a lot of people are choosing to stay out of work because they're getting free money from the government.

Data shows from over the summer when some states cut back on their benefits, we didn't see much of a difference in job growth between the states that did pull off benefits and those that kept the benefits on.

So you're seeing some holes poked in that argument and it also is shining light on some of maybe the real reasons why we're seeing the labor market the way it is.

For one, many people are finding it hard to go back to the jobs they had before the pandemic.

For one, they may not have their job anymore. Their job may not exist. They may not live in the same state in which they had their job because they had to move.

There may be childcare issues. Women are finding it hard to find childcare. As the Delta variant continues to rage, there's concern about everybody's health.

So despite the fact there are 10.1 million jobs open and people may want to get back to work, there are a lot of things going on in the background that could be preventing people from getting back into the labor force.

HILL: Alison Kosik, appreciate it. Thank you.


Thanks to all of you for joining me.

The news continues next with Alisyn after a quick break.



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. Welcome to this special holiday edition of NEWSROOM. I'm Alisyn Camerota. Victor is off today. Hope you're getting some down time, too.

But there's no break for the White House this Labor Day. The president still grappling with multiple challenges.

Roughly 100 Americans are still in Afghanistan. COVID numbers are still climbing.