More than a quarter of a million people devastated by Superstorm Sandy have applied for aid through the federal government, officials said Tuesday, a week after the storm pummeled the area.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano also addressed a possible housing crisis that could emerge after many homes were deemed uninhabitable, or simply swept away by the powerful storm surge spawned by Sandy.
Officials are “looking at apartments, hotel rooms…trailers if need be,” Napolitano said during a briefing in Bethpage.
She noted, however, that temporary trailers may not be the best idea for Long Island.
“I must say trailers in a climate like this [is] probably not the preferred solution,” said Napolitano on her sixth day of touring the wreckage on LI.
Officials said 266,000 people have applied for aid through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and that $237 million has already been approved.
The federal government has also pledged to help local communities by paying workers to remove debris from curbs and roadsides. That also goes for outside contractors that the government may point to for assistance, Napolitano said.
On a day when millions of voters are taking to the polls, many hoping for more bipartisanship in government, both Democrats and Republicans came together to praise the federal government for its response to the storm.
“People in New York are going to fight back, people on Long Island are going to fight back, thank God you’re in our corner,” Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), who is up for re-election, said to Napolitano.
“The federal government for 100 years realized that communities could not afford to build themselves up on their own after major devastation,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY). “Oftentimes in [Hurricane] Katrina and [Tropical Storm] Irene the handoff, the baton went poorly, it’s gone extremely well” following Sandy.
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano also heaped praise on Uncle Sam.
“We appreciate the value of the commitment of the federal government here in Nassau County,” said Mangano. “We discussed immediate, short-term and long-term needs. This event, unfortunately, is not going to take months to recover from, it’s going to take well over a year.”
Hurricane Sandy hammered Long Island last week, knocking out power to 1.1 million customers, almost Long Island Power Authority’s entire customer base.
Storm-ravaged areas along Long Island’s North and South Shore were particularly hit hard by Sandy, with hundreds of homes flooded, forcing many residents to throw their valuables onto the curb.
But local officials were confident that LI would rebuild.
“This has been the toughest natural disaster New York has ever faced and it’s been a body blow,” said Schumer. “But I am optimistic that Long Island will come back and New York will come back like never before because we are a tough, resolute people.”
To apply for federal assistance through FEMA at 1-800-621-3362 or go to www.disasterassistance.gov