People wait in line to fill propane tanks Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, in Houston. Customers waited over an hour in the freezing rain to fill their tanks. Millions in Texas had no power after a historic snowfall and single-digit temperatures created a surge of demand for electricity to warm up homes unaccustomed to such extreme lows, buckling the state's power grid and causing widespread blackouts. Credit: David J. Phillip / AP

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden approved a major disaster declaration for Texas, which will expedite federal funding for a state wracked with widespread power outages following a rare arctic blast this week.

Separately, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved an emergency fuel waiver for the state to prevent gasoline shortages, following blackouts this week that cut power for millions of people.

The major disaster declaration provides a range of federal assistance programs for individuals and public infrastructure, including funds for both emergency and permanent work, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

Federal funding is also available for cost-sharing with state and local governments for emergency protective measures and hazard mitigation measures.

Dozens of counties will be able to access the funding, and more could be added as damage assessments roll in. Jerry Thomas was named as the federal coordinating officer for recovery operations in the affected areas.

“A Major Disaster Declaration will allow for more federal dollars and critical resources to flow into our state,” Texas Republican lawmakers earlier wrote in a letter to Biden asking him to approve the declaration. “Specifically, this declaration will enable individuals to receive direct assistance and deliver long-term support to communities as they recover.”

The EPA fuel waiver, effective immediately, allows the state to temporarily forgo some environmental requirements. The EPA said it also issued a temporary waiver for requirements of state emissions for diesel and El Paso oxygenate levels through March 5.

The waiver was signed by EPA Acting Administrator Jane Nishida, who determined that “extreme and unusual fuel supply circumstances exist in Texas as a result of severe winter weather conditions.

Ari Natter, Bloomberg News