Even though Sandy’s winds have died down, millions of people across nine states are dealing with the superstorm’s aftermath. In New York and New Jersey in particular, the immediate needs for food, shelter, power and gasoline are the focus of both the Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.
Making gasoline available
One high priority is allowing ships to deliver unrefined petroleum to the hardest-hit area, so it can be refined into gasoline.
In a news conference today, Craig Fugate, FEMA administrator, announced a temporary waiver of the Jones Act, which prevents some ships from entering waters near New York and New Jersey. The Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, and the Department of Defense, or DOD, are working together to allow ships with the capability of providing additional unrefined products to make deliveries in the New York area.
FEMA is working with state and local authorities to increase pipeline deliveries of unrefined products, increasing refinery capabilities by restoring power and working to get fuel to retail outlets. The agency is working to get electricity to gas stations, too. If power cannot be restored quickly enough, emergency generators will be delivered to some gas stations.
In addition to working to restore power and to improve the supply of gasoline, the focus for FEMA today is on getting teams to reach places they have been unable to get to before, especially those without power and without cellphone communication capability.
“We’re getting to those areas as fast as we can to help people register for FEMA aid for their immediate losses and for rental assistance,” Fugate said.
Food and shelter
Charley Shimanski, vice president of disaster services for the Red Cross, said that emergency aid stations and shelters have been established in nine states. In addition to the shelters, the Red Cross has established fixed kitchens and mobile kitchens to feed people in New York and New Jersey. Shimanski said there are 4,000 disaster workers on the scene in New York and New Jersey with thousands more on the way and local volunteers being mobilized today as well.
FEMA is working with state officials to establish teams to assist storm victims with insurance claims, housing programs and FEMA funds. As of 11 a.m. Eastern time today, 85,072 people have registered with FEMA for assistance, and $18 million has been disbursed through direct deposit or a paper check to victims. Fugate said those numbers increase hourly.
To register for assistance, call (800) 621-FEMA, or visit DisasterAssistance.gov, a site that is mobile phone-friendly.
While Fugate said no accurate numbers are available as of yet, FEMA is aware that many hurricane victims lack flood insurance. He said some of the newer homes in the flood zone and any homes with federal government-backed mortgages have mandatory flood insurance, but many more do not have any flood insurance coverage. Even some homeowners who have flood insurance have only the minimum coverage, which pays for structural damage but not for the contents of the home because coverage for a home's contents is optional.
FEMA will provide temporary housing assistance for storm victims, Fugate says, and in some cases will provide housing for up to 18 months while homes are rebuilt. The initial rental payments for temporary housing cover one month for renters and three months for homeowners, but these payments may be extended.
The Small Business Administration, or SBA, has a program of low-interest loans to cover residential losses not compensated by insurance, and FEMA has grants that may be available for home repairs and other disaster-related costs.