STATE – Nearly $38 million in federal disaster assistance has been distributed to New Jerseyans recovering from Hurricane Irene, but yesterday Republicans in Congress blocked a bill to authorize $7 billion for natural disaster victims, injecting uncertainty into the flood recovery process.
Only 53 senators voted for the bill – seven short of the 60 needed to advance – and Democrats blasted the vote as another instance of partisan politics getting in the way of American needs.
“With so many people suffering from floods and other disasters, it is shameful that Republicans blocked disaster relief today,” said U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ.) “No wonder Americans are fed up with Congress when the Republicans make disaster victims pawns in a political game. The Republicans seem to be willing to go to any length to make the government appear to be dysfunctional and ineffective. It’s time for the Republicans to stop playing politics and work with us to get people the disaster relief they need.”
Even Republican Gov. Chris Christie has called for immediate disaster aid. “I don’t want to hear that offsetting budget cuts have to come first before New Jersey citizens are taken care of,” the governor said after touring flood-damaged Lincoln Park in the days following the storm.
According to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), FEMA has spent almost $400 million in the past two weeks on emergency aid and only has about $300 million remaining. Some Republicans are insisting that any additional FEMA funding be offset by cuts in other parts of the federal budget.
As of Sunday, 31,400 individuals in New Jersey have registered with FEMA for disaster assistance, averaging more than 2,850 per day.
- Nearly $36 million in disaster assistance for housing needs was provided in 11 days.
- More than $2 million in Other Needs Assistance, for other necessary expenses and serious needs (i.e. personal property, transportation, medical and dental expenses, funeral and burial expenses) has been provided.
- Disaster Recovery Centers have already opened in the hardest-hit counties: Passaic, Bergen, Somerset, Morris, Essex, Union, Middlesex, Monmouth, Hudson, Warren, Sussex, Gloucester, Cumberland and Cape May. The FEMA/State Joint Information Center will announce additional locations as they open.
New Jersey residents can find the DRC closest to them online at: http://asd.fema.gov/inter/locator/home.htm.
There are three ways to register – go to www.disasterassistance.gov, to m.fema.gov or call FEMA toll-free, 800-621-FEMA (3362). Those with access or functional needs and who use a TTY may call 800-462-7585 or use 711 or Video Relay Service to call 800-621-3362. Telephone lines are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET; multilingual operators are available.
Federal assistance became available after the president issued a major disaster declaration on Aug. 31. Assistance is provided for eligible damage from the Hurricane Irene and related flooding, Aug. 27 through Sept. 5, 2011.
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