The federal disaster declaration covering New Jersey has today been extended to include all Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) services for Mercer County and 11 other county's not included in President Obama's previous disaster declarations, said Congressman Chris Smith (Robbinsville, NJ).
"This is good news for Mercer towns," said Smith, who represents some of the hardest-hit areas of the State. "This opens the door for impacted homeowners to apply for individual assistance. It enables citizens to seek help from the federal government."
Individuals can seek federal assistance for coverage of repairs and temporary housing not covered by private insurance up to a maximum of $31,900 (After Hurricane Irene in 2011, the average FEMA individual assistance was about $8,000). In a letter to President Obama on Nov. 2, Smith detailed the need for inland areas to receive the same declaration of the coastal areas of the Garden State, notwithstanding the massive destruction experienced in Ocean and Monmouth Counties in his district, and beyond.
"While damage in Mercer does not reach the mass devastation found in Ocean and Monmouth Counties which are also in my Congressional District and have received major disaster declarations -- damage is significant in Mercer, including the loss of life," Smith wrote. "Every single community in Mercer County has been affected significantly. Thousands of trees are down and while some power has been restored, over 90 percent of Mercer residents lost power." (Click here to read FEMA's notice released today of the amendment)
Smith noted he was very concerned about the approaching weather system threatening already-battered coastal areas in the Fourth Congressional District in Ocean and Monmouth Counties.
"We still have over a half-a-million people sitting in the dark waiting for power, including heat, water and electric utilities," Smith said. "Twenty-four people have died in New Jersey, and many more have lost their homes or their homes are unlivable until major repairs are made. Now we have to worry about more water and wind."
Smith said as of early today, it is estimated that over 300,000 Jersey Central Power and Light (JCPL), and 272,700 PSE&G customers await power restoration. Residents affected can call Smith's office and he will monitor outages and communicate with the electric utilities as best as possible.
Smith has repeatedly reminded residents and businesses that they should document personal property damage for the purposes of filing insurance claims or applying for government assistance.
"Frankly, the patience and understanding of residents has been remarkable," said Smith, whose Robbinsville home, and offices in Manchester and Hamilton were without power for days. "We have people suffering from the cold, others from flooded dampness in their homes and yet others without running water. We must press ahead to get everyone back into safe and working homes."
Smith has a hurricane information page with links to federal, state and local information on his website at http://chrissmith.house.gov/hurricane/ which will continue to be maintained as the recovery is underway. It will be regularly updated with information about seeking federal assistance such as that offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or Small Business Administration.