Hurricane Helpers

Few turn to feds for aid

Last October, Hurricane Sandy tore across the Eastern United States, killing more than 100 people and causing billions of dollars in damage. More than 1,500 personnel from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) were deployed along the East Coast to support disaster preparation and relief efforts. President Barack Obama toured the region, and governors such as New York’s Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey’s Chris Christie took the spotlight too, with Christie castigating House Republicans for “inaction and indifference” because they failed to pass a federal hurricane aid package quickly enough. New York and New Jersey residents, he said, could “no longer afford to wait while politicians in Washington play games.” 

But polling data suggest it was family and friends, not state or federal assistance, that storm-affected resident trusted most. In a survey of 2,000 residents in some of the hardest-hit parts of New York and New Jersey by the Associated Press–NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 41 percent said they sought help from friends, relatives, and neighbors, with a majority finding them “deeply helpful.” Only 16 percent said they contacted the federal government, and just 7 percent said they contacted their state government.

Of those who turned to the federal government, just 19 percent said they found it helpful; twice as many said the feds were no help at all. Meanwhile, 77 percent of respondents said the storm brought out the best in their neighbors, and 70 percent said they would “rely a great deal” on their local government’s first responders when disaster strikes again.  

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