Trump to donate $1 million in personal funds to Texas relief efforts

Last Updated Aug 31, 2017 8:30 PM EDT

President Trump will donate $1 million towards Hurricane Harvey relief in Texas, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday.

The president said he will donate his personal money, according to Sanders, although she could not say with certainty that the president meant his own bank account and not the Donald J. Trump Foundation. Mr. Trump, who will visit Texas Saturday for the second time since the deadly storm hit, has yet to pick a charity and is open to suggestions, Sanders said. Sanders said she would "assume" the money comes from the president's personal funding, as that is how he phrased it. 

"I had a chance to speak directly with the president earlier, and I'm happy to tell you that he would like to join in the efforts that a lot of the people that we've seen across this country do," Sanders said. "And he's pledging a million dollars of personal money to the fund. And he's actually asked that I check with the folks in this room, since you are very good at research and have been doing a lot of reporting into the groups and organizations that are best and most effective in helping and providing aid, and he'd love some suggestions from the folks here, and I'd be happy to take those if any of you have them."

On Wednesday, Sanders told reporters that Mr. Trump and first lady Melania Trump were looking at "different options" to make personal donations to the relief efforts in Texas.

Mr. Trump was criticized for failing to address victims of the storm early on, and has been criticized in the past for giving less of his income to charity than some other prominent wealthy people.

Tom Bossert, White House homeland security adviser, said Thursday that there are 100,000 homes affected by Harvey in southeast Texas -- some with flood insurance and some without. So far, the storm has killed at least 28 people, and authorities are focusing on rescuing people trapped in the floods and housing them in temporary shelters. Bossert said additional loss of life can be expected.

Bossert said the Department of Housing and Urban Development is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as state and local officials, to take stock of available housing for displaced residents. Bossert said price gouging, whether it be in rentals or anything else, will not be tolerated.

"This will be a housing challenge," Bossert said.

Bossert said victims who are in the country illegally should not worry about their immigration status when seeking immediate relief, saying food and water wouldn't be denied based on anyone's legal status. Authorities, "won't start rounding people up" at shelters, he said.

"What I would say though is in terms of immediate life saving, no individual human being should worry about their immigration status, unless they've committed a crime on top of coming here illegally," Bossert said.

Bossert didn't expand on what types of long-term assistance people in the country illegally would be able to obtain, but said some types of assistance may be open only to citizens.

"I don't think there's going to be a lot of benefits going out to illegal immigrants in terms of the American taxpayer," Bossert said.

Regarding immigration status, Bossert and Sanders said there is no decision at this time as to whether Mr. Trump will end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a program that protects some immigrants who arrived in the U.S. illegally while they were still children.