Lautenberg, Menendez join call for federal disaster declaration for South Jersey

TRENTON – New Jersey’s U.S. senators are urging President Barack Obama to approve the state’s request for a federal disaster declaration amid recent storms that hit South Jersey.

Democratic Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez sent a formal letter to the president Thursday requesting the declaration for areas affected by severe thunderstorms late last month in Atlantic, Cumberland and Salem counties.

A federal disaster declaration would free up federal funding to reimburse local governments and residents for recovery and rebuilding efforts.

“These storms have placed a significant burden on local governments, businesses and residents who have been forced to pay for clean-up and recovery costs,” read a joint statement issued by both senators.  “Many of these communities are already facing tight budgets as they continue to recover from previous storms and greatly need financial assistance.”

The announcement comes days after Acting Gov. Kim Guadagno penned a similar letter to Obama asking for $4.3 million to help pay for relief in the counties that suffered significant damage to homes, buildings and infrastructure.

According to her letter, the storm resulted in straight line winds that felled trees, causing power outages, road closures and fires. More than 192,000 customers in five counties were without power, some for longer than a week.

A damage assessment conducted by the state put the damages in the three counties at more than $17.2 million.

Federal disaster money would come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund.

Lautenberg, Menendez join call for federal disaster declaration for South Jersey