FEMA Public Assistance Chief: There’s Still A Lot Going On In The Recovery Process

With the state still recovering from Hurricane Sandy, many are still waiting for funds. FEMA New Jersey Sandy Recovery Field Office Public Assistance Branch Chief Douglas Westermann told NJTV News Managing Editor Mike Schneider that FEMA has been working with Department of Emergency Management in the recovery process.

“We’re in really good shape at the moment. We’ve worked really closely with the New Jersey Department of Emergency Management and the statehouse has outstanding emergency management being run by the state police,” said Westermann. “We’re quite well into the program. All of the original projects that we’ve identified are in some form of development and we’re only really down to a hand full.”

Westermann said that FEMA is getting to the later stages of the recovery process and will be able to finalize the grants for applicants and has to make sure that the state has the ability to give all of the remaining funds to applicants that need the money.

Gov. Chris Christie once said that FEMA had become the new “F” word and Westermann says that FEMA understands the frustration that communities have and are going through, as he has gone through a similar experience.

“I’ve been a local applicant there in the disasters in the Midwest,” Westermann said. “So we understand the frustration to get the funds out the fact of the matter is that its a working effort between the state and FEMA and the applicant to make sure they get the right amount of money and not too much money.”

Recently about 100 homes in Woodbridge were part of buyouts in flood prone areas. Westermann said the buyouts in Woodbridge is a way of reducing future damage and having people relocate to areas that won’t be impacted by future storms. The area where the buyouts were made would get turned into green spaces according to Westermann.

As the recovery process goes into its later stages, Westermann says that FEMA’s greatest success story in New Jersey has been on infrastructure and the ability to get all projects completed as identified and written. He also said that FEMA has to make sure that the money goes out to the state so it can go to the municipalities that need the funding.

“We also been very aggressive in regards to the mitigation efforts that our mitigation team has done and that’s critical because we always try to improve upon things to make them more resilient with the next event,” said Westermann. “Hopefully there’s never another event in New Jersey but something might happen again. So they try to put enough money into the areas that were flooded for elevation for community centers, for community police departments, village halls. To wet proof those, to dry proof them, so there’s a lot of stuff going on still.”

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