Weeks after the remnants of Hurricane Ida struck New Jersey, claiming 30 lives across the state, residents are still seeking relief.
For an hour Friday morning, New Jersey and federal officials discussed how to navigate the aid process, taking questions from an audience of more than 400 viewers at a virtual town hall.
Twelve counties remain under a disaster declaration, with Gloucester County the only one in South Jersey after a strong tornado plowed a 12-mile path of destruction between Harrisonville, Mullica Hill, and Deptford. The remaining 11 counties are in Central and North Jersey, which saw major flooding.
Gov. Phil Murphy, who led the discussion, said this month’s storms were the worst natural disaster to hit the Garden State since Superstorm Sandy. He said a “whole of government response” is needed to respond to natural disasters like the state suffered earlier this month.
“The federal government, the county government, the local governments — everyone pulling together,” he said. “That’s exactly what we’re doing here to help everyone impacted by the floods and tornadoes that accompanied the remnants of [Ida].”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has received more than 52,000 applications from New Jersey and awarded more than $35 million, according to Patrick Cornbill, a coordinating officer with the agency. He added that the typical response time from when residents contact FEMA to when an inspector comes to the scene is typically three to four days.
“Our processes have been going very fast from the beginning,” Murphy said, citing the rapidity of damage assessments, President Joe Biden signing the disaster declaration, and opening of disaster recovery centers.
Cornbill recommended that anyone who has not heard from FEMA in 10-14 days call 800-621-FEMA (3362).
“A common problem is that people who were, for example, were displaced from their normal residence, their contact information has changed,” he said, “so the inspector didn’t get a hold of them and they were, sort of, put back into the queue.”
State officials earlier this week said they are still conducting assessments to determine whether public or individual assistance thresholds have been met, as in Warren County. They added that the likelihood of additional counties receiving disaster declarations “is getting less and less as the days go by.”
U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez pledged his support to help residents receive recovery funds.
“I know the road to recovery will be long because I have been down this road before with the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy,” Menendez said, recalling fights with his colleagues in Washington to secure relief for the state, as well as with insurance companies that wanted to raise rates after the storm.
“It took years for so many of these families to get back in their homes,” Menendez said. “But I never gave up.”
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