PATERSON, N.J. — Nearly three weeks after experiencing the wrath of Tropical Storm Ida, cities like Paterson in New Jersey are still struggling to get back on track.
The devastation was felt in nearly every part of the city. Sections like Cobb Park were hit particularly hard due to its proximity to the Passaic River.
Marilyn Hernandez, who lives a block from the park, lost her car and was forced to throw out hundreds of dollars of food that went bad when the power went out.
“I am struggling,” Hernandez told PIX11. “I don’t have a job. I’m really barely getting anything out of it, so it’s like what am I supposed to do now?”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency was deployed to Paterson to help residents like Hernandez.
Officials set up a staging area at Cobb Park on Monday, encouraging members of the community to register for aid that they’re entitled to.
“It’s always encouraging to have the Federal Emergency Management Agency here in the City of Paterson ready with their tablets to point people in the right direction,” Mayor André Sayegh said.
FEMA reported a low turnout in registration for relief among residents.
“This city, which has been one of the cities greatly impacted by Hurricane Ida, [not] a lot of people in this community have not registered,” said Jovanna Garcia, a program liaison specialist for FEMA.
FEMA appears to be facing an unforeseen obstacle: gaining the trust of the community.
With language barriers, and in some cases a stigma when it comes to government interactions, the agency decided to send teams to impacted neighborhoods to knock on doors. They’re also working with local organizations to get the word out about financial assistance.
Even though online resources are available, face-to-face meetings with FEMA are highly recommended, as it will prevent application errors which have already resulted in a number of denial letters.
Another hurdle the city is dealing with is the ongoing boil water advisory which was expected to last another two to three weeks.
Officials are distributing water at a number of locations around the city.