Congressman Leonard Lance (NJ-07) today called on President Obama to add Hunterdon, Middlesex and Union Counties to New Jersey's recent disaster declaration, making residents of those storm-battered areas eligible for federal assistance. The Seventh District lawmaker also invited U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate on a tour of the Seventh District to see first-hand the damage inflicted by Hurricane Irene.
President Obama declared New Jersey a disaster area on Wednesday afternoon, making affected residents and business owners in Bergen, Essex, Morris, Passaic, and Somerset counties eligible for a variety of federal grants and loans to cover uninsured losses. Lance is calling for the remaining counties in the Seventh Congressional District to be added to this list.
The president's declaration also said federal relief could also be provided to repair public works such as roads, pipelines and bridges in Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and Salem counties. A spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency said more counties could be added later for both kinds of relief.
"Over the past four days I have tirelessly toured my congressional district and personally seen first-hand the devastation inflicted upon so many towns in Hunterdon, Middlesex and Union counties," Lance said. "I have personally witnessed devastated communities, heard the pleas of individuals who have had their residences and businesses destroyed, talked with Mayors and public safety officials who say responding and rebuilding is beyond they own abilities and resources. It is imperative that all 7th District counties receive this important federal designation."
Lance also called on the heads of Homeland Security and FEMA to visit Central New Jersey for a first-hand look at the damage wrought by Hurricane Irene. It was reported that Napolitano and Fugate had visited flood-damaged areas in North Jersey late Wednesday afternoon.
"I respectfully request that Secretary Napolitano and Administrator Fugate join me in touring towns like Cranford and Springfield and see first-hand the massive and costly cleanup residents and business owners face in the wake of Irene's record-setting aftermath."
Today the Congressman is participating in a helicopter inspection of Hurricane Irene's flood ravaged disaster areas with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers and federal lawmakers from the region. The tour will include viewing the coast north to the Raritan, Rahway and Passaic Rivers' flood affected areas.