WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced today that President Bush has declared a major disaster for New Jersey, opening the way for the use of federal disaster funds to help people and communities recover from the effects of Tropical Depression Ivan.
Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response, said the President took the action following a review of FEMA’s analysis of the state’s request for federal assistance. The declaration covers damage to private and public property from the tropical depression beginning on September 18.
After the declaration, Brown designated the counties of Hunterdon, Mercer, Sussex and Warren eligible for federal aid to stricken residents that can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, home repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses. Low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration also will be available to cover residential and business losses not fully compensated by insurance.
In addition, Brown said federal funds will be provided for the state and affected local governments and certain private non-profit organizations in the counties of Mercer, Sussex and Warren to pay 75 percent of the eligible costs for the restoration of damaged facilities. The funding also covers eligible state and local government costs for debris removal and emergency services related to the storm.
Under the declaration, federal funding also will be available to local governments in the counties Hunterdon, Mercer, Sussex and Warren on a cost-shared basis for approved projects that reduce future disaster risks, Brown said. He indicated that additional designations may be made later if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.
Peter J. Martinasco of FEMA was named by Brown to coordinate federal recovery operations. Martinasco said that affected residents and business owners in the designated counties can begin the disaster application process by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will be available 24-hours a day, seven days a week until further notice.
As a result of the intense hurricane activity, FEMA’s toll-free teleregistration line received twice as many calls this past month than any previous month in the history of the agency. Additional call centers and registrars have been added, but the volume remains extremely high. Callers are advised that if they get a busy signal, to please be patient and try the call again later.
FEMA is asking the public’s assistance in managing call volume to support the agency’s effort to prioritize help to those with the greatest need. Owners of commercial properties and residents with only minor losses are urged to wait a few days before calling so those whose homes were destroyed or heavily damaged can be served first. Hurricane victims with insurance coverage should contact their insurance company or agent before calling to report losses and, if necessary, to request an advance or partial payment of their settlement.
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.