FORT MONMOUTH N.J. -- On February 4, 2011 President Barack Obama issued a Disaster Declaration (FEMA-1954-DR-NJ) for the State of New Jersey granting federal assistance, under the Public Assistance program, for unmanageable expenses incurred while cleaning up the 20” or more of snow that fell December 26-27, 2011.
A Presidential Disaster Declaration opens the door to more than just funding. It brings with it a network of Federal and State partners who work as a team to assist government agencies and eligible non-profits recover losses and get back to normal as quickly as possible.
At the helm, a Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO), named by the President, takes responsibility for the FEMA side of recovery. In New Jersey, the State Coordinating Officer’s (SCO) name is included in the Governor’s request for assistance to the President. With these two positions pre-established, once the President signs a declaration, mobilization of personnel and implementation of programs is immediate.
The NJ Office of Emergency Management (NJOEM), under the NJ State Police umbrella, is quickly activated and the Governor’s Authorized Representative (GAR), and the SCO assign State operations roles and responsibilities.
FEMA does the same. Logistics teams stand up a Joint Field Office (JFO) within a few days of the declaration from where State and FEMA operations are directed. More than 90 federal Disaster Reservists are deployed to DR-1954 in a variety of positions that support FEMA’s mission in the designated areas. Most importantly are the field specialists who work closely with claimants as they go through the application process.
But, the partnership isn’t limited to those two agencies. Members of Congress and State legislators also play an important role as conduits of support and information to the communities that FEMA and NJOEM serve. They are an outlet for their constituents plus they channel critical information back to FEMA and to the State on behalf of their constituents.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) plays a significant role on all Presidential disasters because they can offer different types of assistance beyond that which FEMA programs provide. Here in New Jersey under DR-1954, SBA offers low interest loans to certain Private Non-Profit organizations not eligible for FEMA grants.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is an integral part of recovery from flooding in New Jersey because they have the ability to provide long term assistance. Equally the Department of Environmental Protection lends its expertise to officials who are concerned with wildlife protection and air quality.
Additional money also becomes available to states for preventive measures. The Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), authorized by the Robert T. Stafford Act, follows FEMA recovery efforts into town. With HMGP money, all State, county and local officials have the opportunity to mitigate areas of repetitive loss. The amount of funding is based on a percentage of the total amount of federal assistance provided by FEMA for disaster recovery. These grants are not limited to designated counties and application is made to the State by eligible, interested entities.
In short, every federal agency has the capability to assist FEMA and the State during recovery and they can be activated as needed once there is a Presidential declaration. In addition, under the Public Assistance program, FEMA, through the State’s Office of Emergency Management, provides not only opportunities for officials to recoup 75% of their losses from disaster damage; they can take preventive measures to protect their counties and towns from future damage. Information about the HMGP program can be found at http:/...