NEW YORK — In the one month since President Barack Obama declared a major disaster in New York for Hurricane Sandy, the federal government has contributed more than $1 billion to help New Yorkers, their communities and the state with disaster-related needs, as well as assigning equipment and supplies, and deploying thousands of people to assist in the response and recovery from the storm.
FEMA has provided more than $714 million to assist individuals and families repair damaged homes, find temporary housing and assist with expenses such as medical and dental bills.
Recognizing the response to such a devastating storm requires a coordinated effort; the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has partnered with dozens of federal agencies, the state of New York, New York City, county, local and tribal governments, volunteer organizations and the private sector to assist survivors through established programs as well as innovative initiatives developed specifically for Hurricane Sandy.
Assisting New York residents affected by the massive storm has been a priority even before Sandy struck, when the President authorized federal action to prepare for the advancing storm including prepositioning food, water and blankets, deploying expert officials from several federal agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard and other components of the Department of Homeland Security. Assistance remains on-going through the efforts of more than 3,700 FEMA personnel working to make sure eligible survivors know what help is available and how to get it.
Even as the storm raged, search-and-rescue teams and emergency medical personnel were responding to critical life-saving needs. As soon as the storm passed, crews went to work positioning power generators in strategic locations in affected areas, pumping millions of gallons of water from flooded subway stations and tunnels, and dealing with the most pressing
infrastructure needs. Since then hundreds of millions in disaster assistance have been allocated to make homes habitable, remove millions of cubic yards of debris, provide temporary housing, restore electricity and replace lost personal possessions.
In addition to President Barack Obama’s tour of damaged areas here, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, U.S. Small Business Administrator Karen Mills, Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service Wendy Spencer and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate have toured damaged New York communities to view response and recovery efforts while vowing to bring all available resources to bear to support state and local partners in assisting survivors in the 13 counties designated for assistance.
“FEMA and our federal and state partners are committed to the recovery and rebuilding of New York,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Michael Byrne. “We will remain on the ground until the job is finished. We’ve been on it and we’re staying on it.”
Even as Sandy was making its way up the east coast, FEMA and the Department of Defense established Incident Support Bases at Westover, Mass., and Lakehurst, N.J., to position supplies and other resources close to areas in the hurricane’s path. Since the storm, 3.2 million meals have been served, and 2.4 million liters of water distributed, and 210,000, blankets have been distributed to survivors.
The first FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers opened just days after the storm passed and continue to assist survivors at more than 36 locations where more than 64,000 have met face-to-face with disaster assistance experts. Nearly 1,300 FEMA community relations specialists have met with more than 73,000 storm survivors while going door-to-door delivering information vital to recovery as well as blankets and other necessities.
By using geospatial mapping imagery, FEMA identified areas with the most significant storm damage so survivors whose homes were inaccessible could be eligible as soon as possible for temporary housing assistance — without having to wait for a FEMA home inspection. In neighborhoods reachable on foot, FEMA inspectors hit the ground as soon as they could to meet with survivors and assess damages to their homes.
The U.S. Small Business Administration has staff members at 19 Business Recovery Centers in the New York area to provide one-on-one help to business owners seeking disaster assistance and has approved more than $57 million in disaster loans to both individuals and businesses.
Along with FEMA’s traditional recovery programs designed to provide financial or direct assistance to individuals and families, FEMA has responded with an innovative program called Sheltering and Temporary and Essential Power (STEP).
The program is funded by FEMA and administered by the state, county and local governments to serve survivors by bringing in contractors to perform basic repairs, like covering broken windows and safely restoring electricity, so that residents can return to their homes while more long-term repairs are made. New York City, Nassau and Suffolk counties have worked to implement programs available through STEP, and home repairs have begun.
Disaster Unemployment Assistance also has been made available to supplement New York’s existing unemployment insurance system and expands eligibility to include individuals who might otherwise not be covered, like those who are self-employed.
FEMA continues to lead the government’s efforts to assist survivors and communities recover along with coordinating the emergency response of other federal agencies.
More than 27 federal agencies have joined FEMA in Hurricane Sandy preparation, response and recovery, including the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Labor and numerous volunteer agencies affiliated with the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, including the American Red Cross and many faith-based organizations.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development responded swiftly, deploying subject matter experts to staff disaster recovery centers to provide program information and local housing resources to Hurricane Sandy survivors. Additionally, the Department assigned employees to work closely with federal and state partners to quickly facilitate the approval of program waivers and new initiatives designed to speed aid to those impacted by the storm.
The Department of Health and Human Services approved more than $8.2 million in grants for behavioral health support to New York residents and deployed more than 1,100 personnel, including approximately 13 Disaster Medical Assistance Teams, medical and mental health professionals from the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and caches of medical supplies to support hospitals and shelters in the New York City area.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture provided approximately 1.1 million pounds of food for distribution to affected households and issued additional Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program benefits to qualifying households to help replace food lost because of hurricane damage. Additionally, the U.S. Forest Service mobilized 1,100 personnel to assist with tree clearing and disaster assistance.
Other federal agencies responded with more than $460 million to help restore power, deliver gasoline and diesel fuel, dispose of hazards, clear roads, restore public transportation, provide medical services and various other disaster related activities.
A total of 1.4 million cubic yards of storm debris has been removed in New York, including 409,429 cubic yards disposed of by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which also has drained more than 270 million gallons of salt water from tunnels, underpasses and other areas throughout New York City, enough to fill a space equal to 843 football fields one foot deep.
The U.S. Department of Labor awarded $27 million through its National Emergency Grant funds to the New York Department of Labor to assist with the restoration of public lands, infrastructure, and to assist with cleanup and recovery. The U.S. Department of Transportation approved $10 million in quick-release emergency relief funds to New York for a variety of immediate repairs to roads, bridges and tunnels.
The New York National Guard deployed almost 4,000 troops and fueled more than 13,000 city vehicles while visiting more than 16,000 homes and apartments to check on residents. Marine Corps helicopters airlifted generators into affected areas.
Other services contributed by federal agencies include U.S Air Force cargo planes that transported electric utility trucks from as far away as California, the U.S. Maritime Administration that dispatched ships to be used as cost-effective housing for first responders, utility workers, National Guardsmen and others, and the Defense Logistics Agency that purchased millions of gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel for distribution to communities impacted by Sandy.
FEMA also has teamed with the private sector network of business, industry, academia, trade associations, and other non-governmental organizations as partners in assisting with Sandy recovery.
New York has had the full support of the federal government in this first month following the landfall of Hurricane Sandy, and we continue to stay on it. FEMA continues to work with agencies like HUD, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, HHS, and other agencies as we work with the state on the ongoing and longer-term recovery needs of New York.
For more information on New York’s disaster recovery, visit www.fema.gov/disaster/4085, http://twitter.com/FEMASandy, www.facebook.com/FEMASandy and www.fema.gov/blog.