FEMA Gets Mixed Review From Public [AUDIO]
Residents in the Bayshore area affected by Sandy have mixed feelings about FEMA, giving its employees and volunteers high marks while at the same time saying the agency itself is deeply flawed.
During the fourth hearing of the New Jersey Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on Hurricane Sandy, held at Henry Hudson Regional High School in Highlands, residents and businesses owners were invited to give their testimony on the aftermath from the storm and issues they felt the committee could address from Trenton.
For many residents the chaos from the flooding and winds of the storm only gave way to confusion applying for aid from FEMA. Highlands mayor Frank Nolan was asked by the committee to give FEMA a grade.
The Mayor said while the volunteers and employees who helped deserved an exemplary grade, he said the Agency earned a “D”. The sentiment was echoed by several residents, who expressed their frustration applying for aid from FEMA and constantly being forced to jump through hoops or given the run around.
“They were kind, they were caring, they reached out, they showed concern for these people,” noted one resident, “but when the answers came back it was just ridiculous.”
Business owners also expressed concern over the treatment they received from FEMA and the SBA after Sandy. Thomas Hanson, owner of Grumpys Tackle in Seaside Park, didn’t suffer any damage from Sandy, however has no revenue stream since the town is still shut down. He worries even if people can rebuild their homes, the economic vitality of the area could be seriously compromised.
“I have applied to FEMA for economic injury aid and that is going to be a short term solution for my situation because the interest is going to be paid, it’s going to add to my overhead and make difficult business more difficult.”
Dan Shields, restaurateur and husband of Senator Jennifer Beck, also expressed the need for businesses affected by the storm to be given a chance to rebound and bring money back into the area.
“We need to get the word out there, through the New Jersey Tourism Board or whatever vehicle you have to let people know that you can go east again.”
“The bottom line is the help of FEMA is non-existent from my twelve month experience.”
Fred Rosiak, owner of Captain’s Cove Marina in Highlands, said he had to use his entire life saving to rebuild his bulkhead after Irene. He completed the project only days before Sandy hit but now faces one hundred thousand dollars of additional repairs. Through FEMA, he says he only qualifies for a small business loan, with rates that are worse then the local bank and require him to put up his home as well.
“The bottom line is the help from FEMA is non existent,” he claims.
Senator Beck admitted FEMA doesn’t provide small businesses with much aid, and said Governor Christie is allotting $8 million in small businesses assistance as part of the over $36 billion in federal aid he is requested.