TRENTON, N.J. – Hurricane Ian’s recent path of destruction in Florida is reminiscent of Superstorm Sandy’s devastating impact on New Jersey, says Assemblyman Alex Sauickie, who is introducing a storm-related bill package in advance of the 10th anniversary of the state’s worst natural disaster. The three bills would help Garden State residents and businesses prepare for and recover from weather events.
“Seeing the images of boats washed ashore, homes ripped from their foundations and the recovery efforts underway in Florida, brings back memories of Superstorm Sandy,” Sauickie (R-Ocean) said. “I have so much empathy for the people of Florida, because we understand what they are going through. It’s why I believe this package of bills is so important right now.”
Approximately 30,000 residents were displaced from their homes in Ocean County, more than any other New Jersey county, after Superstorm Sandy hit the state’s coast on Oct. 29, 2012. Thirty-eight people in New Jersey died and as many as 82,000 homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed.
“During Sandy, 2.6 million New Jersey residents lost power. A third of them went without electricity for at least a week. That kind of outage is devastating to everyone, but even losing power for a day can have major consequences for those who rely on medical devices,” Sauickie said.
The lawmaker wants to incentivize taxpayers to put in whole-house backup generators at their primary residence by offering an income tax deduction. It’s a measure (A4732) that Sauickie says can literally save lives by providing power and preserving emergency services during a storm.
To address the associated costs following the loss of power, Sauickie sponsors another bill (A333) awaiting a hearing in the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee. It would require electric companies to reimburse residential or commercial customers who experience outages lasting more than 48 hours for the cost of spoiled food, prescription medicine, or perishable goods. Residents could receive up to $540 and businesses could recoup as much as $10,700.
“With sky-high food prices, a family cannot easily replace a week’s worth of groceries. And New Jersey businesses, especially small businesses, cannot take another financial hit. Being forced to throw away products because of power restoration delays isn’t within most businesses’ budgets,” Sauickie added. “Public utilities providing unreliable service have to be held accountable.”
The third bill (A4731) would enable public utilities and cable, internet and cell phone companies to operate more efficiently during emergencies by using drones to assess and maintain critical infrastructure. The state would be required to adopt rules, in accordance with federal laws and regulations, permitting the use of unmanned aircraft in this manner.
“Getting this bill package passed ahead of the next Sandy, Ian or Ida is crucial to our security, safety and resilience,” Sauickie said.