WOODLAND PARK, N.J. (AP) — Authorities say some New Jersey counties may soon be eligible for millions of dollars in federal money to help deal with costs related to the rare October snowstorm, despite a “clerical error” on initial damage reports that county officials blamed on the state.
A state spokeswoman disputed that there was any error, but did say state officials will return to the area Monday to reassess damage to the counties of Bergen, Passaic, and Middlesex, which were all initially rejected for the money that was earlier made available to every other county in New Jersey.
State officials had previously submitted an incomplete assessment of damage in Bergen County to the Federal Emergency Management Authority, leading to the initial rejection, said Mary Goepfert, the state spokeswoman. The first assessment was done not long after the storm, before state officials could take the full measure of the snow’s impact, Goepfert said.
“What we try to do is the best that we can do when we first go out,” she said. “But you can’t get everywhere.”
The money, which is given out by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, would pay for emergency work to government buildings and for other repairs or replacements. A FEMA spokeswoman could not provide an exact amount, but said the total for Bergen was in the millions of dollars. Passaic County’s eligibility also will be reassessed.
Jeanne Baratta, a spokeswoman for Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan, said late Friday that she was standing by her assertion that it was a clerical error on the part of the state. But Baratta also said that the reassessment makes it likely that the county will get the money after all.
“We don’t think it’ll be a problem,” she said.
Word that any error may be holding up the money sparked a swift reaction from several North Jersey politicians, including state senators Loretta Weinberg, D-Teaneck, and Paul Sarlo, D-Wood Ridge, both of whom demanded quick answers.
“There’s no way Bergen County should be left off FEMA’s list,” Sarlo said. “If this was an honest mistake, then let’s correct it and resubmit our numbers to Washington so our towns and taxpayers can get the help they deserve.”
In a statement, Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., said he was pleased that officials were coming back to reconsider.
“The impact of recovering from the October snowstorm cannot be sustained by the municipalities alone,” Pascrell said.
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