Lower Manhattan blacked out due to the effects of hurricane Sandy (image credit Allison Joyce/Getty)
David Jackson, USA Today
President Obama has already declared New York and New Jersey as major disaster areas, an unusually early action reflecting the massive damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy.
Disaster declarations are normally made after post-storm assessments, but officials said the obvious problems justified extraordinary action.
"This was so evident how bad it was that the president said, 'let's just get this done,'" said Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, on The Weather Channel.
The announcement said that, In New York, "the President's action makes Federal funding available to affected individuals in the counties of Bronx, Kings, Nassau, New York, Richmond, Suffolk, and Queens."
The New Jersey action affects the counties of Atlantic, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, and Union.
"Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster," say both declarations.
Up and down the east coast, Hurricane Sandy has left at least 16 people dead and millions without power.
More disaster declarations are expected in the hours and days ahead.
The New York and New Jersey declarations said that "federal funding is available to State and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for debris removal and emergency protective measures."
Money "is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide," said the announcements.
"We are very much in a response mode," Fugate said. "We are not talking about recovery."
Contributing: Carolyn Pesce