This past weekend, Hurricane Irene ripped through the 5th District with unrelenting force, leading to some of the worst flooding I've ever seen in North Jersey. Over the past few days, I have met with FEMA and visited towns and communities all across our district to survey the damage and lend a helping hand to victims. From Hillsdale to Stillwater, many homes and business are still under water and will be for days to come. The cleanup will not be easy and our rebuilding efforts will take some time, but during these difficult times the great people of North Jersey have demonstrated their steadfastness and resolve.
I want you all to know that I will do everything in my power to ensure that FEMA and the federal government provide all the necessary support to help 5th District residents recover from this disaster. On Wednesday, I joined the rest of the New Jersey delegation in sending a letter to President Obama expressing our full support for Governor Christie's request for an expedited declaration of a major disaster for the entire State of New Jersey, which will free up funding for individual aid for home construction and financial assistance for flood victims.
Those who were spared from the damage have already demonstrated a generous outpouring of support to the victims. In order to manage this support in an efficient way, disaster recovery experts have identified some very easy ways to help, whether you are looking to volunteer or send donations:
* Donate through a trusted organization -- At the national level, many faith- and community-based organizations are trusted ways to donate to disaster survivors. In addition, each state has its own list of voluntary organizations active in disasters.
* Cash is the most efficient method of donating -- Cash offers voluntary agencies the most flexibility in obtaining the resources most in need and funnels money into the local economy. Remember, donated goods such as used clothing, household items and perishable foodstuffs require helping agencies to redirect valuable resources away from providing services to sort, package, transport, and distribute items that may not meet the needs of disaster survivors.
* Be wary of scams and fraud -- Unfortunately, disasters often bring out criminals who prey on the needs of disaster survivors, or the generosity of those looking to help, by offering fraudulent services related to disaster relief. If you suspect anyone of fraudulent actives, please call FEMA's toll-free Disaster Fraud Helpline at 866-720-5721, or your local law enforcement officials.
My thoughts and prayers go out to all those who have been affected by this terrible tragedy. Understand that you are not alone in this time of need. As always, if there is any assistance that my staff and I can provide, please don't hesitate to contact us.