- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 24, 2013

Federal Emergency Management Agency officials are touting a first-of-its-kind “Rapid Repairs” program as speeding aid to Superstorm Sandy victims in New York City. But ask a resident still awaiting help, and the response, more often than not, is: Repairs? What repairs?

“Nobody communicates anything to you,” said Joe Casale, who lives in Breezy Point with his wife and three sons, according to an NBC report. “I have to keep on calling up and busting people’s chops to find out what’s going on. It’s ridiculous. It’s not rapid for one. We started up on Nov. 15, and they’re just getting around to us now. They held us back a good month I would say.”

Thousands of homeowners are still stranded from the late-October hurricane that swept through two dozen states in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. FEMA’s response was widely criticized, as stories of cleanup scandals emerged — that a FEMA official stole an agency generator for personal use, that non-unionized utility crews were being ordered to stand down, to name a couple. And political watchers, meanwhile, noted the differences in media pressures to provide federal assistance between Sandy and the 2005 Hurricane Katrina, during President Bush’s administration.

Thursday, FEMA was reporting its success with its newly created Rapid Repairs program and said agency workers had already provided free utility repairs and restored service to almost 12,000 homes in New York City, and repairs were scheduled for another 1,900 homes.

To the estimated 7,000 still stranded, the numbers meant little, however.

NBC quoted a 45-year-old electrician characterizing the program as “nonexistent,” as he described his wife’s daily — and futile — visits to the local FEMA Rapid Repairs’ office. His wife, meanwhile, added that she has physically chased contractor trucks through the neighborhood and blocked off streets in order to question FEMA workers on the status of planned repairs.

• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com.

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