Even though the full force of Hurricane Joaquin didn’t hit land in New Jersey, shore areas were hit hard — and it's not yet clear how much help the Garden State will get with costs.

The storm caused significant property damage and beach erosion. Teams of state, county and local officials are assessing the damage — and what they find will help dictate if a disaster declaration is to be made, which could clear the way for federal aid the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“After the assessment, the governor would have to apply to the federal government for disaster relief,” said Bob Martin, commissioner of the State Dept. of Environmental Protection. “At this point the State Police and the Office of Emergency Management are still looking at those numbers."

Before the storm hit, Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency, but no governor can issue a disaster declaration.

“A federal disaster declaration is determined by the federal government and FEMA more specifically,” said New Jersey State Police Capt. T.J. Collins.

A damage threshold must be met for the Garden State to be eligible for federal aid. There’s a complex formula used that weighs far more than the dollar amount of the damage caused by the storm.

“To some degree it’s formula-based. Monetary values are factored in, but there are other things that are looked at too to more or less come to that final calculation for a disaster declaration to granted,” Collins said.

It’s unclear when the assessments will be done, but Collins predicted it would be sooner rather than because law enforcement and emergency management officials learned a lot of lessons after storms Irene and Sandy pummeled the state.

“We’ve really been able to streamline the process and become more efficient at conducting disaster assessments,” he stated.

Impacted New Jersey residents looking for what programs and services are available have a one-stop website Collins said.

“It’s a website that’s been recently updated and has just been finely tuned to be a clearing house of resources for the citizens of the state. It's www.ready.nj.gov,” he said.

Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at kevin.mcardle@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on twitter at @kevinmcardle1.

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