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NY1 For You: FEMA Admits To Great Challenges In Sandy Relief Efforts

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Many New Yorkers hit hard by Sandy are sounding off on the Federal Emergency Management Agency's response in the wake of the superstorm Sandy, but FEMA officials say they are continuing to provide relief to impacted areas. NY1's Susan Jhun filed the following NY1 For You report.

From displaced residents unable to use their FEMA vouchers to those who say they have not seen the federal agency’s presence in their neighborhood, criticisms are growing louder.

"I haven’t seen FEMA here at all I’ve seen signs that say 'FEMA please help us,'" says a New Yorker in a storm-damaged area of the city.

Despite negative reviews, FEMA officials say they are working around the clock and pumping resources into the region to ensure every New Yorker needing aid is reached.

"We’re well over $340 million that has been distributed to the citizens, to the survivors of the impacted areas. We have over 175,000 families, households that have registered," says Michael Bryne, a federal coordinating officer for FEMA.

Confusion as to what FEMA will cover has left many storm victims frustrated. Programs to reimburse cost of living to displaced residents, for repairs to damaged homes and for rental assistance are being rolled out.

"We have a program called 'Transitional Shelter Assistance Program,' where we work with hotels that have registered to be part of the program and what we'll do is put people in the hotel, we pay the hotel directly so they have a place to stay that's safe and secure," says Bryne. "The other thing that we do that's really critical is we provide rental assistance, up to 18 months of rental assistance, if you can't get into your home."

FEMA says it is doing more by increasing its workforce, with more crews in the field and opening more Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) in devastated areas.

"With New Yorkers, fortunately there haven't been a lot of disasters like this, so it's a new experience for them. We're sensitive to that," says Bryne.

While there is no timeline for how long its recovery efforts will last, FEMA says it will reassess how much more is needed as the cost and extent of damage becomes clearer.

For now, FEMA officials advise all those affected to first call 1-800-621-3362 or apply for assistance at www.disasterassistance.gov.

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