NEW YORK - President Joe Biden approved major disaster declarations Monday greenlighting federal aid for people in six New Jersey counties and five New York counties affected by devastating flooding last week from the remnants of Hurricane Ida.
At least 50 people were killed in six Eastern states as record rainfall last Wednesday overwhelmed rivers and sewer systems. Some people were trapped in fast-filling basement apartments and cars, or swept away as they tried to escape. The storm also spawned several tornadoes.
Biden is scheduled to visit New Jersey and New York City on Tuesday to survey storm damage, the White House said. The storm killed at least 27 people in New Jersey and 13 in New York City.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, touring flood-damaged areas of Lambertville on Labor Day, said Biden's major disaster declaration will allow individuals to receive assistance, including grants for temporary housing and home repairs and low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses.
"The major disaster declaration means individuals are now eligible for money in those counties," said Murphy during a tour of storm-ravaged Lambertville. "Before you ask it, there are 15 other counties in New Jersey and we're in there fighting for it."
An existing emergency declaration issued last week enabled state, county and local governments to get reimbursed for disaster spending, added Murphy.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said an initial assessment found that the storm damaged more than 1,200 homes and caused about $50 million in damage to public infrastructure and property. Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said damage to city infrastructure was estimated at $35 million.
In New Jersey, the disaster declaration covers Bergen, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Passaic, and Somerset counties. In New York, it allows for individual assistance for people in Bronx, Queens, Kings, Richmond and Westchester counties.
Those affected should visit DisasterAssistance. gov
Murphy said he would be talking to Biden during his visit to about adding other counties to the major disaster declaration.
Murphy joined state and local officials on a walking tour of Lambertville, passing homes with belongings piled outside as residents spent their Labor Day clearing flood debris, aided at one point by a bulldozer.
The major disaster declaration could help people like Nick Cepparulo, who told Murphy all of his family's first-floor possessions were washed away soon after they got in their car and raced for higher ground.
"We’ll be all right," Cepparulo told reporters after speaking with Murphy. "We need a little help getting there."
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Sen. Chuck Schumer and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spent part of the morning touring of storm damage in Queens with Deanne Criswell, the former city emergency management chief who’s now administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"People need money and they need it quick," said de Blasio. "That's what's going to make a difference. They don't have a way to pay for it unless we get this federal money in their hands."
One resident greeted de Blasio with an arm on his shoulder and a quip about their flooded homes.
"Welcome to Woodside," she said. "We have swimming pools in each house. So you can get your bathing suit on and take a dip with us."