Essex County, NJ: FEMA Major Disaster Declaration Approved, Here’s How to Apply

Carolyne Volpe Curley / West Essex Now
Debris lined the streets of Millburn, NJ,New Jersey Governor's Office

“Essex County was one of the hardest hit areas. Hurricane Ida, with her unprecedented rainfall and flooding, upended the lives of our families and devastated our local businesses. Becoming eligible for disaster relief is welcome news for those who have been salvaging what they can, working to clean up and preparing to rebuild. I appreciate FEMA sending their team to survey the damage throughout Essex and see the areas affected by the storm. Thank you to Governor Phil Murphy, Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker and our Congressional Representatives, Donald Payne, Jr., Mikie Sherrill, Tom Malinowski and Albio Sires for their strong and vocal advocacy on behalf of Essex.” ~ Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr.

Friday, Sept. 10, 2021

It’s been a long wait for Essex County, NJ, residents who are continuing to clean up after receiving devastating damage from last week’s Tropical Storm Ida. For the first time in history, Essex County had received a “Flash Flood Emergency” warning from the National Weather Service in anticipation of the life-threatening deluge yet to come. After the storm dissipated, the area which had already been hard hit only 10 days earlier with flooding from Tropical Storm Henri’s 6” of rain, was now suffering from new catastrophic flood damages.

Four days after Ida, six New Jersey counties received FEMA Major Disaster approvals. Essex County was not included in that list and county officials urged residents and business owners to document their losses in order for the approval to be granted.

Finally today, Essex County has been declared a Major Disaster Area due to Tropical Storm Ida and residents can now apply for federal assistance.

Apply for FEMA Federal Assistance


FEMA Aid Includes Financial Assistance

  • Business assistance
  • Child Care
  • Funeral costs
  • Home repairs
  • Low-cost loans
  • Temporary housing
  • Vehicle repairs


FEMA Registration Process:
You will need to submit the following:

  • Annual Household Income
  • Bank Account Information (for direct deposit)
  • Contact Information
  • Insurance Information
  • Social Security Number


Essex County’s FEMA disaster declaration came about after a full week of local, county and state assessment and documentation:

Wednesday, Sept. 1

  • As Ida created havoc from strong winds, two tornadoes, and heavy sustained rainfall across the state of New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy issued an Executive Order declaring a State of Emergency across all 21 counties.
  • The storm severely damaged private and public structures, downed trees and power lines, and produced wide-spread flooding across the state which resulted in most roads being impassable for hours. The governor implored people to stay off the roads.
Washington Street near Glenwood Avenue, Bloomfield, at about 11:30pm Sept. 1, 2021Anthony's Cheesecakes
“I’m declaring a State of Emergency effective immediately in response to Tropical Storm Ida which is severely impacting all areas of our state. We will use every resource at our disposal to ensure the safety of New Jerseyans. The safety of our residents is our main priority, and we urge everyone to be informed of local weather conditions and to stay off the roads.” ~ Governor Phil Murphy



  • The governor spoke with Millburn Mayor Tara Prupis about the devastation the township had already experienced.
“Just touched base with Millburn Mayor Tara Prupis about tonight’s storm. We urge everyone in the area to STAY HOME. Stay off the roads and head to high ground now.” ~ Governor Phil Murphy


  • Over 93,000 power outages were reported throughout New Jersey; and more than 16,000 of households without power were in Essex County


Thursday, Sept. 2

  • Murphy set the process of receiving federal disaster assistance into motion when he contacted the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
  • He was advised to request assistance directly from the Biden administration which he did within the hour.
“I just spoke with FEMA Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell and thanked her for the tremendous communication and offers of assistance from FEMA. We will work tirelessly with our federal partners to meet the great needs of our homeowners, towns, and businesses in the wake of this storm.” ~ Governor Phil Murphy

Debris from Tropical Storm Ida is piled along sidewalks in Bloomfield, NJ, on Sept. 4, 2021.Michael Venezia
  • Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia completed a tour of his township documenting the wide range of destruction he witnessed and the continuing loss of power to many homes and businesses.
  • Venezia expressed it could take months to recover from the storm.
“I just finished touring the township. The devastation from this storm to both public and private property was widespread. Many homes, businesses, cars, etc were completely damaged. We still have a lot of cars that are abandoned and disabled. Our fire department will be out all day pumping basements, please call 973-680-4141 to get on the list. Our DPW is out cleaning debris. This will take us weeks and months to complete this clean up. Please check up on your neighbors, especially the elderly. We are all in this together. Update from PSEG: they are currently working on the areas without power, they believe it should be back on in the next 2-3 hours.” ~ Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia


  • Murphy personally spoke to US President Joe Biden and officially requested that, as soon as possible, a Major Disaster Declaration be declared for the state of New Jersey.


  • The New Jersey Office of Emergency Management worked with local OEM offices across the state to coordinate First Responders' relief and recovery efforts.
  • In the vast amount of neighborhoods affected by Ida’s powerful winds and flooding, utility crews were unable to begin repairs due to the destruction surrounding the downed poles and power lines.


  • The state administration formally requested the federal Major Disaster Declaration.
New Jersey officially requests Major Disaster Declaration from White House on Sept. 2, 2021New Jersey Governor's Office

“I just requested a Major Disaster Declaration from President Joe Biden in response to Tropical Storm Ida. This support will help us meet the urgent needs of our residents and businesses in the wake of this unprecedented disaster. Hopeful for the swift consideration of this request.” ~ Governor Phil Murphy


Friday, Sept. 3

  • The governor visited Essex County and toured the downtown area of Millburn which, along with many other downtown areas of Essex, was hard-hit by Ida.
“Just surveyed flood damage from Tropical Storm Ida in downtown Millburn. Millburn’s small business community was absolutely crushed by this storm, and recovering and rebuilding will require economic support. We will be there.” ~ Governor Phil Murphy
  • While in Millburn, Murphy announced details of a plan, coordinated through the The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA), which will provide grants to New Jersey small businesses impacted by both Henri and Ida.

Henri / Ida Business Assistance Grant Program
Provides grants of $1,000 to $5,000 to NJ businesses and nonprofits that have:

  • Up to 50 full-time equivalent employees
  • A physical commercial location in NJ which was physically damaged as a result of Hurricane Henri and or Hurricane Ida.

The application process begins Friday, Sept. 17. Home-based businesses are not eligible


Saturday, Sept. 4

  • The governor announced that President Biden will visit New Jersey on Tuesday to see up close the destruction caused by Ida in Manville.


Monday, Sept. 5

  • Ahead of his visit, Biden announced that a Major Disaster Declaration had been created for six New Jersey counties.

The actions made federal assistance available to residents and businesses located the counties of:

  • Bergen
  • Gloucester
  • Hunterdon
  • Middlesex
  • Passaic
  • Somerset


  • In order to assist those counties which had not been approved for FEMA assistance, New Jersey launched a Data Collection Portal where residents can document their losses.

The portal requires basic information from impacted residents and businesses to document damages resulting from Ida including:

  • Name
  • Location
  • Damages
  • Expected repair costs


  • Seeing Essex was left off of the list, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. expressed his disbelief.
“I am terribly disappointed that FEMA did not include Essex County among the areas eligible for federal recovery assistance from Hurricane Ida. The storm was indiscriminate in how it destroyed businesses and residences, flooded entire downtown areas, buckled roads and took lives. We understood the severity of the storm and declared a State of Emergency prior to its arrival because we knew the aftereffects would be devastating. The tremendous losses by residents and businesses owners of Essex County should not be overlooked; we don’t deserve to be forgotten by FEMA. I stand with Governor Murphy in demanding that Essex County become eligible for Federal disaster relief.” ~ Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr.
  • FEMA officials expressed that damage assessments would continue in other areas of the state and that additional counties may later be designated for financial assistance.


Wednesday, Sept. 7

  • FEMA teams began assessing the damages due to Ida across counties which had yet to receive federal disaster designation.

Officials documented evidence of loss in:

  • Essex
  • Hudson
  • Mercer
  • Union

11: 15am

  • FEMA crews assessed damages due to Ida in Millburn while walking the town with the County Executive, County Sheriff Armando B. Fontoura and local officials.
DPW crews work on recovery efforts in Millburn, NJ on Sept. 7, 2021Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr.
“I met with FEMA officials and then toured downtown Millburn with them to survey the damage. They are doing their due diligence to get Essex qualified for FEMA aid. I also met with business owners who suffered damage because of Hurricane Ida. Becoming eligible for FEMA aid will help businesses hurt by the storm.” ~ Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr.


  • President Biden along with the governor and state officials toured neighborhoods in Manville, NJ to witness the loss and destruction created by Ida.
President Biden along with the governor and state officials toured neighborhoods in Manville, NJ on Sept. 7. 2021Office of the New Jersey Governor


  • DiVincenzo led FEMA officials through Bloomfield, NJ, accompanied by Mayor Michael Venezia.
Debris pile in Bloomfield, NJ, on Sept. 7, 2021Office of Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr.
“The amount of items being disposed of show how bad the flood damage is. This is from one of our stops in Bloomfield.” ~ Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr


  • DiVincenzo’s assessment tour with FEMA officials continued to Newark, NJ.


  • County and FEMA officials continued to document damages due to Ida as they met with local residents and business owners in South Orange, NJ.
Essex County and FEMA officials tour the DPW facility in South Orange, NJ on Sept. 7, 2021Office of Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr.
“The next stop on our tour with FEMA was to South Orange. In addition to residences and businesses being affected, the village's public works yard sustained damage.” ~ Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr.


  • After hours of assessing Ida damages, DiVincenzo and FEMA officials documented the flooding damage in Nutley, NJ.


Thursday, Sept. 8

  • New Jersey announced that for the next two weeks, free and discounted rides are available from Lyft and Uber for essential travel for anyone who lost use of a personal vehicle due to Ida.

Residents in need can request services:

  • Text: Message 898-211, and send the message NJIDARIDE
  • Call: Dial 2-1-1


Friday, Sept. 10

New Jersey Department of Human Services (NJ DHS) announced that residents of counties designated by FEMA as disaster areas, and who already receive SNAP benefits, will receive additional food assistance benefits.

Starting immediately, those SNAP recipients can use their EBT cards to purchase hot foods at participating NJ SNAP retailers; normally, hot foods are not covered through SNAP.
The full list of NJ SNAP Retailers can be searched by address through this site.
Additionally, those same SNAP recipients can contact their local Board of Social Services to request replacement benefits for any foods lost due to Ida.
The full list of NJ Boards of Social Services can be found online here.

These FEMA benefits will be available through Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021.
Official FEMA Declaration of Disaster portal for Essex County, NJ on Sept. 10, 2021New Jersey

New Jersey received confirmation that additional counties, including Essex, have been approved for FEMA relief.

FEMA assessors, who wear distinctive blue vests, will continue to tour Essex County neighborhoods this weekend starting with Millburn Township Saturday morning.

Follow on Newsbreak
Thank you for reading.

  • Create an Account to follow:

Comments / 0

Published by

Carolyne Volpe Curley, a Certified New Jersey Press Journalist since 2012, has appeared on nationally televised productions and interviewed by the international press. Volpe Curley publishes West Essex NOW, a hyperlocal news site covering Essex County, NJ. Volpe Curley graduated from Lafayette College in 1986, with a BA in both English and Government, and a minor in Women Studies and Religion.

Essex County, NJ

More from Carolyne Volpe Curley / West Essex Now

Comments / 0