Emergency Officials Brief Media

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This is a transcript of the Sept. 2, conference call for New Jersey media with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and New Jersey Office of Emergency Management Officials outlining Hurricane Irene recovery efforts:

William “Bill” Vogel, Federal Coordinating Officer, Federal Emergency Management Agency:
Thanks everybody, I’m happy to be here and happy to be working with New Jersey. I want to start off by saying it’s a real pleasure to come into a state where the partnership in terms of federal, state, local, and private agencies have really worked hard for the whole community to be able to support any ongoing requirements for those survivors who may have been affected by the terrible hurricane that we experienced last week.

I just want to let you know that we’re happy that the President signed a major presidential declaration very quickly and what that did was open up funding for New Jersey to receive federal funds for two different programs. One of them is called public assistance, the other is individual assistance.
Public assistance takes care of all of infrastructure, buildings, highways, bridges, water control facilities, parks, and public buildings. Individual assistance, as very well stated, takes care of all of the individual homeowners and all of the personnel who are living in the State of New Jersey.

Now, there’s a dollar threshold that is associated with public assistance, which makes it very simple to turn a county on for eligibility for infrastructure repairs. This year, that threshold is $3.27 per capita, per county. So, if the county population, time $3.27 is exceeded in the amount of damage, that county will be eligible for public assistance.

Individual assistance on the other hand, is a different process, where we go through a community, jointly with the State. The State determines the priorities on how it is we’re going to organize our teams and where it is we are going to go and do the inspections based on the severity of the damage throughout the State.

I’m happy to tell you that the approach that New Jersey has taken for this whole process is a very aggressive approach and by Tuesday we will have had all the information compiled throughout the State of New Jersey in every county, for both individual and public assistance’s Joint Damage Assessment. With that process complete then those counties that have sufficient damage will be forwarded with a recommendation to include those additional counties for either of the programs for which they may be eligible to be included in the Presidential Major Disaster Declaration that was granted to New Jersey earlier this week.

The process is a continuing process. And just because a county has not yet been added, certainly does not mean they would not be eligible for the same benefits that a county who has already been included in the disaster declaration would receive. There is no penalty for not being included in the original declaration. As a matter of fact, most of our declarations throughout the United States come that way with the ability to add additional counties as additional damages are identified. And as you very well know that when the water level is high after a floor, it may take a week or even longer for that water to go down, so that we would have access to those different facilities and areas that may have experienced damage.

So my message to you is that we are aggressively working with the State of New Jersey, FEMA is aggressively working with the State of New Jersey in order to do those damage assessments to get them completed as quickly as possible so that we are able to help those survivors who have suffered damage.

Major Dennis McNulty, Commanding Officer, New Jersey Office of Emergency Management:
This is Major McNulty from State Office of Emergency Management. I would also add that in addition to the preliminary damage assessments that are going to be ongoing throughout the weekend with the conclusion targeted for Tuesday comes the establishment of Disaster Recovery Centers in each of the eligible counties. And in those facilities, we place state, federal and county agencies where individuals in need of information, in need of assistance in terms of registering or understanding the process by which they can seek assistance through the federal government can go to and get the information they need approaching each agency as they identify their needs.

And again they’ll be established come Tuesday of next week and open for business.

This is Bill Vogel, again. One other thing that is very important for any survivor who may have suffered any type of damage is to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and they can do that through a number of ways. One of them is to call the 1-800 FEMA line. That telephone number 1 (800) 621-3362 or they can register online at www.fema.gov.

We will have a number of Community Relations Teams throughout the State of New Jersey who will be canvassing areas to ensure that you have the information on how it is that you register. Any of those people will be able to loan you their cell phone and you can register immediately as those teams canvas throughout the State of New Jersey. So I cannot stress how important it is to call that registration number and that’s (800) 621-3362.

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