The Federal Emergency Management Agency is issuing vouchers for hotel rooms to those stuck in emergency shelters because of superstorm Sandy and is rushing fuel to New York and New Jersey, agency Administrator Craig Fugate said.
FEMA activated a program for temporarily sheltering people who can’t return to storm-struck homes, Fugate said in a conference call with reporters today. Those in shelters in New York and New Jersey are eligible, he said.
“If they can move into a hotel or motel, it’s a little bit more comfortable for them,” Fugate said, adding that more than 18,000 are in shelters. “This is designed as an intermediate step,” and those whose homes are uninhabitable will be offered longer-term housing, he said.
While lights in Manhattan buildings flickered back on and subways returned to service today, other New York boroughs such as Staten Island and hard-hit areas in New Jersey still suffered power and fuel shortages. President Barack Obama directed the Defense Department yesterday to buy as much as 22 million gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel for affected communities, and Fugate said it’s arriving.
“They’ve already got some of the first fuel deliveries in,” Fugate said.
More than 122,000 people have applied for federal disaster help, according to the FEMA administrator, and $107 million in assistance has been approved so far. He didn’t say how much the hotel program would cost.
The Red Cross also has 4,200 volunteers working in the area, with “thousands more” on the way, said Red Cross Senior Vice President of Disaster Services Charley Shimanski. The organization is setting up warming shelters in preparation for another storm expected to bring colder weather.
“Social media is helping us drive our activities,” Shimanski said, describing a team the Red Cross has monitoring websites such as Twitter.com. “This is really a new and tremendous resource for the work we’re doing on this very, very large disaster.”
Obama spent time away from the campaign trail this morning to meet with emergency officials and members of his Cabinet at FEMA headquarters in Washington to discuss recovery efforts.
In a campaign appearance in Ohio after the meeting, Obama said the recovery will take “months” and he praised “leaders of different political parties working together to fix what’s broken.”
The president is urging his administration to “look around the corner and see if there are other resources that haven’t already been summoned to try to bring relief to these communities that are bearing the aftermath of the very difficult storm,” Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman, told reporters aboard Air Force One today.
To contact the reporter on this story: Jesse Hamilton in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org.