Hurricane Sandy devastated much of the East Coast of the United States last week, leaving countless communities and homes damaged, flooded, and without power or heat. Fourteen states declared a state of emergency, and the citizens of those states have only just begun the long process of rebuilding and recovering from this devastating storm. If you live in a hurricane-affected area and you need information about Social Security offices, you can find it here.
SSA and OIG employees who live and work in New Jersey, New York, and surrounding areas were among those severely affected by the storm. Three OIG employees are living in hotels because their homes were badly damaged by downed trees or flooding. Many others’ homes suffered some damage, and some are still without power more than a week later. Most employees have returned to work, but our New York City offices remain closed because the Federal building in Lower Manhattan has been without power, water, or heat.
Nevertheless, we have responded in the face of this disaster much like we have before—by offering help in whatever form it is needed. In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, our special agents went above and beyond the call of duty, protecting SSA employees and offices and helping make sure beneficiaries were paid; and transporting Federal officials to inspect damage.
Last week, our agents in New Jersey and New York responded in much the same way, to support SSA and citizens who depend on the Agency. Our agents returned to duty immediately after the storm and worked through the weekend, setting up workspace in local Social Security offices or other temporary locations. They escorted Federal officials assessing damage to Social Security offices. They helped protect SSA employees and customers at offices that opened after the storm and experienced overwhelming crowds. They assisted FEMA by going out into local communities and distributing flyers explaining how to request Federal Government help. And, we were the only Federal agency represented in a law enforcement effort to assist the American Red Cross on emergency supply escorts and distribution to victims in low-income housing in affected areas.
We consider crisis response one of our most important responsibilities, and we will continue to do our part to support the people in need in these communities. But it will take a lot more than that to bring them back from this disaster—so we encourage you to consider ways that you can help as well.
If you are a Federal employee, you may donate to the Federal Employee Education and Assistance (FEEA) Fund, a private non-profit charity, through the Combined Federal Campaign, under #11185. Also, the FEEA has established the SSA Emergency Relief Fund specifically for SSA employees and their families affected by natural disasters. To donate to the SSA Emergency Relief Fund, visit http://www.feea.org/, click on the “Give Now” box to the right of the page, and choose “SSA Emergency Relief Fund” from the drop-down list in the “Gift Designation” section on that page.