With six counties already included in a major disaster declaration due to Hurricane Ida but many others still left out, Gov. Phil Murphy insisted at a press briefing today that he would fight for the inclusion of counties still in need of assistance.
“Those of you who are in counties who have not yet been included in the [Federal Emergency Management Agency] declaration – and please God, you will be sooner than later – go to nj.gov/ida, and there you should log your damages,” Murphy said. “That will help us, by the way, make the case for your inclusion, whatever county you’re in.”
Currently, Bergen, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Passaic, and Somerset Counties are included in the declaration, which gives those counties increased federal aid and coordination in disaster relief efforts. Other counties which sustained heavy flooding, however – among them Morris, Essex, and Union Counties – were not included.
According to both Murphy and New Jersey State Police Acting Superintendent Col. Pat Callahan, the initial decision of which counties to initially include was made by FEMA, although the damage assessments themselves were done in conjunction with the state Office of Emergency Management (OEM). Further assessments are currently underway to determine if more counties should be added.
“Yesterday our OEM team, along with FEMA, were out in Hudson, Essex, Mercer, and Union,” Callahan said. “Today, those assessments are being done in Burlington, Monmouth, and Morris… We’re confident, although it’s never a guarantee, given the amount of damage we’re seeing there, that in short order we’ll be submitting those [requests for disaster declarations].”
Callahan added that he understood the exasperation from residents and legislators alike in excluded counties that experienced significant damage or even fatalities.
“I know the frustrations of counties that are not included,” he said. “I can assure all of them that that process is happening around the clock, and if they meet those thresholds, it is certainly our hope that they be included in the major disaster declaration.”