Following the destruction that Tropical Storm Ida left across the State of New Jersey, President Joe Biden made a trip out to Somerset County last week to survey the damages and find out ways to help those affected by the tropical storm.
Several mayors from nearby local municipalities came out to speak with the president on Sept. 7, including Hillsborough Township Mayor Shawn Lipani.
In an interview with CNN’s Jim Acosta the following evening, Lipani spoke out about the issues he tried to relay to Biden and Gov. Phil Murphy about severe flooding problems Hillsborough has had over the years.
Lipani mentioned that the township’s geographical dimensions of being surrounded by three rivers – the Raritan River, Millstone River and Neshanic River – has hurt many of the same homes and properties when those rivers have flooded dating back to Hurricane Floyd in 1999.
“We need to help out these people that are always in the flood zones with an opportunity to get out and create what they call a Blue Acres, so we don’t have to consistently go back in and save the same people over and over again and then repair the same house over and over again,” Lipani said.
During his visit, Biden spoke about how the country needs to address climate change following the recent string of weather events that have hit the United States, adding that his newly passed $1 trillion infrastructure bill in the Senate will help address the issue.
Murphy’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration to get funding available for those affected by the hurricane in the state was approved by FEMA and the Biden administration to individuals in Bergen, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Passaic and Somerset counties.
This will provide people and businesses with grants for temporary housing, home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs that can assist each case based on the destruction left from the storm.
When asked by Acosta if he felt “optimistic” by the actions and statements made on climate change by the president, Lipani said he was “encouraged” and believes the infrastructure bill will help people out a lot in the “short term”.
“Part of the infrastructure bill and climate change is to mitigate future flooding by engineering dams and headwalls, which in the short term is important and we need that,” Lipani said. “The situation is in dire straits and what we have now is just not working.”
Lipani added that funding his residents received from FEMA is as “vitally important” to them as climate change is in the short term to help them recover from the downgraded hurricane.
“Getting FEMA to our residents so they can start getting back into their homes is as vitally important to these people as climate change and programs down the road, so hopefully this doesn’t happen again,” Lipani said.