The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) continues to lead the federal government’s effort to provide assistance and support to states affected by Hurricane Sandy. Since the inception of the crisis and at the direction of President Barack Obama, FEMA is ensuring the federal family and its public and private partners continue to provide all available resources to support state, local, and tribal communities in affected areas.
The Administration’s top priority remains supporting states, tribes and communities, as response efforts continue. On Monday, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano traveled to Staten Island, N.Y. to meet with state and local officials and view ongoing response and recovery efforts to Hurricane Sandy. Secretary Napolitano also toured the Father Capodanno Disaster Recovery Center.
As FEMA and its partners continue an aggressive power restoration effort, the President has approved an extension to the 100 percent cost share for emergency work performed by state, tribal and local governments through November 14, 2012. The 100 percent funding was set originally to last ten days, starting October 31 and specifically applies to work executed to restore emergency power and emergency public transportation assistance, including direct federal assistance for New Jersey, New York and Connecticut counties designated for FEMA Public Assistance. Other forms of Category B (emergency work) public assistance remain at a 75 percent cost share.
“More than $455 million has already been approved for individuals to assist with housing and other disaster-related needs,” said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. “Impacted residents and business owners in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York should apply for assistance today.”
The first step to receive housing and other assistance is by registering for disaster assistance. Individuals and business owners who sustained losses in the designated counties in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut can apply for assistance online at www.disasterassistance.gov, by web enabled mobile device at m.fema.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). Disaster assistance applicants, who have a speech disability or hearing loss and use TTY, should call 1-800-462-7585 directly; for those who use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 1-800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers are operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week until further notice. .
FEMA is one part of a large team that is working together to support the states in meeting the housing needs of disaster survivors. This joint effort is comprised of housing and technical experts from the states, FEMA, Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Army Corps of Engineers, Small Business Administration (SBA), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and voluntary agencies. The affected states are taking the lead to identify their local needs and resources by convening State-led Disaster Housing Task Forces. The State-led Disaster Housing Task Forces in New Jersey and New York involve a collaborative approach to addressing the temporary housing and long-term needs of the disaster survivors, including the collection of available rental resources, projecting housing needs and exploring other options.
Working together, housing priorities are being established and the team is working to ensure they are making the greatest use of existing housing resources (such as apartments and rental units), enlisting voluntary agencies to make minor repairs so survivors can remain in their homes, and investigating other temporary housing options suitable for the area.
Last week, The Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced it is leading an Interstate Petroleum Transport Team to ensure the fastest and most efficient movement of fuel to the region devastated by Hurricane Sandy. The team serves as a single point of contact for states, the trucking industry, and other agencies to assist in the removal of barriers to the quick delivery of fuel. Since many of the necessary legal authorities reside at the state level, such as restrictions on truck size and weight and the authority to travel across state lines, the team will help coordinate state level activities within the region. The team has already launched a hotline number to help address any individual registration, certification, tax, or other barriers to the flow of fuel transportation to affected states.
“This team will help get fuel delivered to states and communities recovering from Hurricane Sandy even faster and more efficiently than before, by streamlining multiple state regulations for trucks,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “The president has asked us to ensure fuel moves as quickly as possible, and we are answering that call, starting with a hotline number that will give trucks, states and others a one-stop solution to ensure the swift delivery of relief goods.”
Trucks bringing fuel to the impacted region must follow different state regulations. The team will coordinate information on a variety of waivers to ensure each state is on the same page on key regulatory issues that should be addressed to assist the flow of petroleum products to affected states, including:
• Oversize and Overweight
• Low Sulfur Diesel Waivers
• Toll Waivers
• Vehicle Registration Waiver (International Registration Plan — IRP)
• Fuel Tax Waiver (International Fuel Tax Authority — IFTA)
For further information, DOT has set up a hotline at 1-800-832-5660.
FMCSA has already issued an Eastern Regional Emergency Declaration to temporarily lift hours-of-service requirements and other regulations to assist interstate motor carrier drivers and operators providing direct emergency relief, including transporting generators and fuel. Working with FEMA and the Defense Logistics Agency, FMCSA has also helped connect fuel distributors with companies that have fuel pump trucks.
For additional information, please visit www.fmcsa.dot.gov.
In support of these state-led efforts, FEMA has several temporary housing assistance options that can help to ensure survivors have access to safe, secure housing in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The types of housing assistance used will depend on the needs of each individual community.
As of Monday, more than 369,000 individuals in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut have registered for assistance, and more than $455 million has been approved in FEMA housing and other needs assistance. Currently, a total of 55 Disaster Recovery Centers are open in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. Of that amount, 26 Disaster Recovery Centers are open in New York, 22 in New Jersey and seven in Connecticut and more continue to open. To find a disaster recovery center location, check out the disaster recovery center locator at FEMA.gov/disaster-recovery-centers or by mobile phone at m.fema.gov. You may also text DRC and a Zip Code to 43362 (4FEMA).
FEMA has also activated, at the request of the states, its Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program for New Jersey and New York. This program allows eligible survivors who cannot return to their homes due to damages caused by Hurricane Sandy to stay in participating hotels or motels until more suitable housing accommodations are available. This initiative is intended to provide short-term lodging for eligible disaster survivors whose communities are either uninhabitable or inaccessible due to disaster-related damages.
FEMA has also authorized funds to increase the existing rental assistance in New York and New Jersey to exceed current FY2013 Fair Market Rent (FMR) levels to 125 percent. Immediately after the recent disasters, FEMA evaluated the number of available rental resources within Metropolitan New York and Northern New Jersey that might be available to house disaster survivors. After a disaster the sudden reduction of available housing supply can cause the cost of remaining housing units in the area to rise above the pre-existing FMR. It was quickly apparent that the cost of available rental units could become a limiting factor and the additional 25 percent increase is expected to make more than 1,800 rental resources available for temporary housing of disaster-impacted families in New York, and an additional 1,200 rental resources available for similar families in New Jersey. The increase to rental assistance will be implemented during recertification for a continued need for temporary housing assistance.
If a home cannot be repaired easily to safe and sanitary conditions, then local rental resources are the preferred first choice for housing disaster survivors as they recover. As a resource, FEMA has established a Housing Portal to assist individuals and families, who have been displaced by a disaster, find a place to live. By moving individuals and families into local rental units quickly, it allows them to move forward with their personal recovery with the least amount of disruption. The portal consolidates rental resources identified and provided by federal agencies and is available at www.fema.gov/housingportal.
More than 7,200 FEMA personnel have been deployed to support response operations, including search and rescue, situational awareness, communications and logistical support in states affected by the storm. Community relations teams are on the ground in the hardest hit areas going door-to-door to inform disaster survivors about available services and resources and to gather situational awareness. FEMA continues to coordinate with the federal family who have mobilized hundreds of staff from various federal agencies to support community relations and operational activities. More than 2,000 housing inspectors are on the ground, meeting with disaster survivors to identify damages to homes, to further expedite assistance to individuals; and more than 80,000 damage inspections have already been completed in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.
Among the other federal agencies involved are the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which as of November 10, has issued 248,094 disaster loan applications to residents and businesses in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. That number includes 196,822 home disaster loan applications, and 51,272 business disaster loan applications. The SBA continues to operate Business Recovery Centers in New York and New Jersey and can be contacted at the SBA Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 (800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard-of-hearing) or go to www.sba.gov.
Another government agency is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which has more than 1,100 HHS personnel deployed to provide public health and medical assistance to New York and New Jersey. These personnel include disaster medical assistance teams (DMATs). DMATs are a group of professional medical personnel organized to provide rapid-response medical care.
The U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps also continues to support shelter operations. Nearly 60 officers from three Mental Health Teams have assisted approximately 700 residents and first responders a day, helping address basic mental health issues and facilitating environmental interventions in shelters such as ensuring that lights were off or low in a shelter at a sufficient time for people to sleep and arranging structured activities for children and adults. This toll-free, multilingual, crisis support service is available 24/7 via telephone (1-800-985-5990) and SMS (text ‘TalkWithUs’ to 66746).
In addition, the Department of Energy (DOE) in response to a request from the State of Connecticut, the will be loaning an additional 4.2 million gallons of ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel from the Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve to the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), to provide emergency loans to fuel distributors in Connecticut to address fuel shortages in the state.
Another agency, the Defense Logistics Agency continues to supply FEMA with much needed emergency supplies, medical equipment, fuel and now cold and wet weather clothing to help those working toward recovery after Hurricane Sandy. DLA has delivered more than 1.8 million gallons of fuel to federal government distribution points in the New York/New Jersey region. DLA delivered nine generators to the Army Corps of Engineers to power apartment buildings in New York City. They also provided seven additional generators to the New York City Housing Authority.
The Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has more than 3,000 employees from the North Atlantic Division with an additional 960 team members deployed from other USACE divisions across the Nation engaged to support the response mission. Response teams are assisting with debris management, commodities distribution, infrastructure assessment, temporary roofing, critical public facilities, water planning, and temporary housing. USACE has established Recovery Field Offices in New York and New Jersey to support FEMA and recovery operations.
The National Guard continues to work to expedite recovery efforts. More than 5,600 Army and Air National Guard Soldiers and Airmen from 11 states are conducting food, water, and fuel distribution, communications, security, sheltering, debris removal and transportation missions in support of recovery efforts.
The National White House Press Examiner will continue to provide updates on a continuing basis to facilitate recovery operations and keep its readership informed.
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John is the author of an award-winning book, the 2010 Winner of the USA National Best Book award for African American studies, published by The Elevator Group Mr. and Mrs. Grassroots: How Barack Obama, Two Bookstore Owners, and 300 Volunteers did it. Also available an eBook on Amazon. John is also a member of the Society of Midland Authors and is a book reviewer of political books for the New York Journal of Books