TRENTON, N.J. — In the six months since Superstorm Sandy hit the shores of New Jersey, survivors have been rebuilding their communities with more than $1.1 billion in federal funding.
The picture is vastly different from the days following landfall on October 29, 2012. Many homes have been repaired or are in the process of being rebuilt. Businesses have re-opened and the boardwalks are already teeming with weekend tourists.
“Over the last six months the recovery and rebuilding effort in New Jersey has improved significantly, but there is still much to be done,” said Gracia Szczech, Federal Coordinating Officer of the disaster operation in New Jersey. “The New Jersey shore is iconic and FEMA will work alongside state and local government as long as necessary to help ensure that the state will recover.”
The following presents the actions taken in the New Jersey response to and recovery from Superstorm Sandy as of April 23, 2013.
Assisting Survivors with Housing
As part of the rebuilding effort the Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved
$388 million in assistance to more than 60,500 individuals and households affected by Sandy. Of that financial help, $334.5 million has gone to items such as home repair and rental assistance, and $53.4 million has been dedicated to basic needs not covered by insurance.
FEMA coordinated a housing mission that included participation from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This mission provided temporary housing in 114 refurbished housing units at Fort Monmouth and in additional manufactured or mobile homes. In addition, HUD set aside 1,000 “Special Admissions” vouchers from the state-administered Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program for low-income households.
FEMA and the state also coordinated Transitional Sheltering Assistance that housed more than 5,500 individuals and families in 435 hotels and motels until longer-term housing solutions could be found. Survivors have stayed more than 253,425 room nights at a cost of $34 million.
The American Red Cross, the Community Food Bank of New Jersey and Church World Services are just three of the 14 Volunteer Organizations Active in a Disaster (VOAD) working on long-term recovery projects in New Jersey.
Helping to Rebuild
FEMA’s Public Assistance program has approved $262.9 million for assistance in the recovery of the public infrastructure as well as certain nonprofit organizations. FEMA thus far has assisted applicants with projects for boardwalk and beach repair as well as emergency protective measures for marinas, bulkheads and sea walls. These projects will help bolster the state’s economy, which includes its attraction as a major tourist destination.
A few projects currently under construction that are expected to re-open to the public by Memorial Day include: $19 million for the Atlantic Highlands harbor reconstruction of the marina, $12 million for reconstruction of the Belmar boardwalk and $7.6 million for the reconstruction of the Seaside Heights boardwalk.
In response to Superstorm Sandy, FEMA activated 435 Mission Assignments and obligated $100 million in direct federal assistance for a variety of response and recovery actions. Through the mitigation mission, 23,702 applicants have been counseled by Community Education Outreach specialists on rebuilding techniques. The CEO specialists also visited big box stores where they advised an additional 38,226 survivors. Technical assistance was provided to 406 federal, state and local stakeholders to identify mitigation opportunities. Some 1,300 site visits have been completed.
The Small Business Administration has approved more than $734 million in low-interest disaster loans for homeowners, renters and businesses, with more than $607.6 million going to homeowners and $138.8 million allocated to businesses. The loans have been a significant source of working capital for small businesses to help alleviate economic losses.
FEMA Community Outreach
Community outreach was an important factor in the recovery effort following Superstorm Sandy in New Jersey. FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers have offered invaluable one-on-one assistance through storm survivors, assisting with FEMA applications and SBA loans. More than 89,000 visits have already been made to the 41 centers that have served New Jersey throughout the past six months.
Immediately after the storm, FEMA’s Community Relations specialists circulated to storm-ravaged neighborhoods to offer assistance and informational materials in nine languages. Over the next five months, FEMA’s CR specialists contacted more than 100,000 individuals, 25,000 businesses and 10,000 Faith and Community-based organizations.
FEMA Corps, a unit of service corps members ages 18-24 from AmeriCorps’ National Civilian Community Corps, also assisted in the field. More than 220 members contacted survivors, businesses, local government leaders and others to explain FEMA’s programs.
The massive effort by local, state and federal employees received support from at least 480 voluntary groups contributing 766,000 hours of their time. Together they coordinated recovery efforts that included debris removal to prepare for the massive effort of rebuilding homes in New Jersey’s 21 counties.
FEMA Support Continues
To aid in the long-term recovery process, the Federal Disaster Recovery Coordination group was tasked to provide a comprehensive recovery support strategy for storm-ravaged communities. In coordination with the state, local officials and stakeholders, recovery specialists will bring planning and technical assistance to residents as they formalize their community’s recovery vision. Union Beach was selected by the FDRC as the first community in New Jersey to receive federal recovery planning assistance.
Superstorm Sandy recovery support is ongoing. FEMA will continue to work with the state and local governments to assist Sandy survivors.
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