One Year After Sandy, Westfield has Received Almost $1 Million in FEMA Aid
Monday, October 28, 2013 • 11:25am
WESTFIELD, NJ — Reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for Superstorm Sandy expenditures have left the Town of Westfield’s finances in better shape than they have been in some time, according to Town Administrator Jim Gildea.
“To date, we have received just under $1 million,” he told The Alternative Press.
Town officials had expected to recoup 75 percent of what it had spent on the storm from FEMA aid but, thanks to recent move by Governor Chris Christie, Westfield will now likely get back 90 percent, or about $1.35 million, by the end of 2013, according to Gildea.
That leaves Westfield’s budget in a very good place, he said.
“We’re doing better than we were and probably better than we expected,” said Councilman Sam Della Fera, chair of the Finance Policy Committee.
“Come 2014, we’ll probably be in much better financial shape than we are now,” added Gildea.
Hurricane Irene taught Westfield’s public officials and employees a lot about how to apply for FEMA aid. For one thing, “There’s a lot of paperwork to be filled out,” said Gildea.
Form after form was filled out in order to receive reimbursement for overtime expenses for public works, police and fire departments, as well as equipment usage and disposal of all of the debris created by the superstorm—triple the amount of debris generated by Hurricane Irene, according to Gildea.
“The very important thing is that, despite the fact that we didn’t budget for Superstorm Sandy expenses, we were able to absorb a lot of those expenses,” he said. That means that the money coming from FEMA can now be applied to the town’s surplus account, which officials have been trying to rebuild after years of depletion. This could mean keeping more employees on the town’s payroll.
“The council will have the opportunity to make some choices that they haven’t been able to make in the last few years,” said Della Fera.
It’s also good for the town’s credit rating, which took a hit in 2012 when Standard & Poor’s lowered it from AAA to AA+. Recently, the town’s outlook was revised by S&P from “negative” to “stable,” a decision that took the town’s growing surplus into account.