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Obama declares parts of New York, New Jersey major disaster areas

By Kathleen Hennessey, Tribune Washington Bureau –

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has signed major-disaster declarations for parts New York and New Jersey, sending additional government aid to those waking up to the mess left behind by “superstorm’’ Sandy.

The designation makes new federal dollars available to those living in the areas most battered by the storm. That includes direct grants to individuals for temporary housing and home repair, and low-cost loans to help cover property damage not covered by insurance.

It also makes federal money available to help local governments remove debris and cover emergency services. The designation applies to Long Island and lower Manhattan in New York, and most of coastal New Jersey.

The president signed the declarations Tuesday morning as many East Coasters were waking to flooding, power outrages, fallen trees and debris. Coastal areas in New York and New Jersey appear to have borne the brunt of the storm, which made landfall Monday evening.

Obama was updated on Sandy’s progress throughout the night, a White House official said Tuesday morning.

The president spoke by phone to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy and Newark Mayor Cory Booker. He is slated to receive another briefing Tuesday morning.

Obama also signed emergency declarations sending some federal aid to Virginia and West Virginia, parts of which are expected to be buried in snow.

Obama suspended his campaigning Tuesday to deal with Hurricane Sandy from the White House. Vice President Joe Biden, former President Bill Clinton and other surrogates continue to stump for the president.

The Obama campaign has not yet announced whether the president will get back on the trail Wednesday.

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