Biden OKs disaster funds for Florida amid Hurricane Ian

WASHINGTON, Sept 29 (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden approved federal disaster funds for nine Florida counties in the wake of Hurricane Ian, the White House said on Thursday, adding that more areas could be approved later as officials evaluate the damage following the storm.

"Damage assessments are continuing in other areas, and additional areas may be designated for assistance after the assessments are fully completed," the White House said in a statement ahead of Biden's visit to FEMA headquarters later on Thursday for an updated briefing on the storm.

The move allows access to federal grants to help affected residents and businessowners secure temporary housing, repair homes, get low-cost loans for uninsured property losses and otherwise recover, it said.

It also allows local governments and other groups to share the costs of debris removal, according to the White House.

The funds were designated for the counties of Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota.

Biden is scheduled to visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) headquarters in Washington at noon (1700 GMT).

FEMA's chief on Thursday said damage from the Category 4 storm was "catastrophic." (Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)