[OPINION] We Need To Learn Lessons From Sandy & Previous Hurricanes

Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr.

Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr.

by  Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr.

Today marks the one year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy’s destructive landfall on the state of New Jersey. The storm accounted for 346,000 destroyed housing units; 190,000 negatively affected businesses resulting in 107,000 job losses; and an estimated 34 people killed in New Jersey. It is imperative that we not only remember those lives that were lost due to the storm but, we must also honor them by assisting those still in need and improving upon our current systems. 

Last year, Congress approved $60 billion in aid towards Hurricane Sandy relief. However, the lack of available information and poor understanding of who qualifies have caused lower income households to receive less individual assistance from FEMA. Furthermore, the cost of recovery from Hurricane Sandy has widely outpaced our resources. New Jersey has an unmet need of $4.85 billion in direct damage costs and an additional $23.5 billion needed for hazard mitigation.

As Members of Congress, it is our responsibility to ensure that we minimize the impacts of future storms of this magnitude. The lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy as well as Hurricane’s Ike, Charlie, and Katrina should not be wasted. Now is the time to better secure our infrastructure to withstand these more frequent storms. Legislation such as my SMART Grid Study Act, which calls attention to our declining resiliency to major storms, should be given priority. We must not wait until another tragic event to occur for us to act. The moment for us to take a proactive instead of a reactive approach to these major storms has arrived.

Donald M. Payne, Jr. is a Democrat who represents New Jersey’s 10th Congressional District, which includes portions of Essex, Hudson, and Union counties.

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