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Society

Biden Directs Federal Aid to NY, NJ After Deadly Flooding

September 7, 2021

LAMBERTVILLE, N.J. — President Joe Biden approved major disaster declarations Monday greenlighting federal aid for people in six New Jersey counties and five New York counties affected by devastating flooding last week from the remnants of Hurricane Ida.

At least 50 people were killed in six Eastern states as record rainfall last Wednesday overwhelmed rivers and sewer systems. Some people were trapped in fast-filling basement apartments and cars, or swept away as they tried to escape. The storm also spawned several tornadoes.

Biden is scheduled to visit New Jersey and New York City on Tuesday to survey storm damage, the White House said. The storm killed at least 27 people in New Jersey and 13 in New York City.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, touring flood-damaged areas of Lambertville on Labor Day, said Biden's major disaster declaration will allow individuals to receive assistance, including grants for temporary housing and home repairs and low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses.

An existing emergency declaration issued last week enabled state, county and local governments to get reimbursed for disaster spending, Murphy said.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said an initial assessment found that the storm damaged more than 1,200 homes and caused about $50 million in damage to public infrastructure and property. Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said damage to city infrastructure was estimated at $35 million.

In the Hudson Valley, Metro-North said commuter rail service will return for Tuesday morning's rush hour after crews removed several feet of mud from the tracks and and restoring washed out slopes and ballast. Two of the four tracks on the Hudson line remain out of service for repairs between Riverdale and Tarrytown.

Biden's disaster declarations cover Bergen, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Passaic, and Somerset counties in New Jersey and allow for individual assistance for people in Bronx, Queens, Kings, Richmond and Westchester counties in New York. 

Murphy said he would be talking to Biden during his visit to about adding other counties to the major disaster declaration.

Murphy joined state and local officials on a walking tour of Lambertville, passing homes with belongings piled outside as residents spent their Labor Day clearing flood debris, aided at one point by a bulldozer.

The major disaster declaration could help people like Nick Cepparulo, who told Murphy all of his family's first-floor possessions were washed away soon after they got in their car and raced for higher ground.

"We'll be all right," Cepparulo told reporters after speaking with Murphy. "We need a little help getting there."

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Sen. Chuck Schumer and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spent part of the morning touring of storm damage in Queens with Deanne Criswell, the former city emergency management chief who's now administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

One resident greeted de Blasio with an arm on his shoulder and a quip about their flooded homes. 

"Welcome to Woodside," she said. "We have swimming pools in each house. So you can get your bathing suit on and take a dip with us."

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