One year ago today, Hurricane Sandy slammed into the Northeast, wreaking havoc and destroying businesses and homes in its path. After the storm passed, it was clear the road to recovery was going to be a challenge. I’m tremendously proud of the herculean efforts of all those on the front lines of recovery but I also recognize we have so much more to do.
Even before the storm made landfall, more than 1,500 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) personnel were on the ground and within a week, 17,000 federal responders deployed along the East Coast. Immediately following Sandy, more than 23,000 people sought refuge in temporary shelters and more than 8.5 million Americans were without power. FEMA worked quickly to provide more than 20 million liters of water, 16 million meals, 1.7 million blankets, 79,000 cots, 138,000 tarps, and 500. In addition, FEMA invested more than $3.2 billion to remove storm debris.
A year later, the federal response is redefining the government’s role in the wake of large natural disasters. The Obama Administration has provided direct assistance to more than 230,000 people and small businesses. FEMA awarded more than $1.4 billion in individual assistance to more than 182,000 Sandy survivors. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) paid nearly $8 billion to 99 percent of its policy holders. The Small Business Administration (SBA) approved $2.4 billion in loans to tens of thousands of businesses and homeowners. To date, HUD is contributing more than $10 billion through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program to support long-term disaster recovery – rebuilding homes, supporting economic development and repair damaged infrastructure.
Part of our challenge is not just restoring conditions to what they were before the storm, rather to rebuild better and stronger to reduce the impact of future storms. President Obama recognized that we needed to rebuild the Sandy affected region smarter and better so he established the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force. I have been proud to lead the Task Force that has been helping to cut red tape, identifying and working to remove obstacles to resilient rebuilding while promoting the long-term sustainability of communities and ecosystems in the region.
President Obama’s Climate Action Plan directs federal agencies to prepare our communities for the impacts of a changing climate. It’s imperative that as we recovery from Hurricane Sandy, we must reduce the threats posed by future threats caused by climate change. The Task Force has piloted innovative resilience strategies to strengthen communities in the Sandy-impacted region that can serve as models as we prepare communities across the country for the impacts of climate change. Investing now means we can save billions of dollars in future costs.
The Task Force also launched the Rebuild By Design competition to attract world-class talent to develop innovative projects that will make the Sandy-impacted region more resilient and protect and enhance our communities.
We’ve accomplished a great deal in the past year but we know there’s still more work to do. Our shared challenge is that we rebuild the region stronger than it was before and that we’re better prepared for the next storm. I’m confident that working together in partnership with state and local communities, we build a stronger Northeast region and a stronger America.