Even as President Barack Obama, Gov. Chris Christie and Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Craig Fugate toured the storm-ravaged coast of New Jersey on Wednesday, victims of Sandy started seeking federal aid.
FEMA workers began going door to door in coastal towns to register residents unable to apply by phone or over the Internet because of continuing power outages. Wednesday was the first day for storm victims to apply for assistance.
"What we want to do is get them rental assistance and give them a place to stay," Fugate said as he flew with Obama to Atlantic City.
Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.
More counties and additional forms of assistance may be designated after FEMA's on-the-ground assessments are completed, said Michael J. Hall, the federal coordinating officer for recovery operations in the affected area.
In Brigantine, Obama told residents, "I just want you to know that we're going to be here for the long haul. Director Fugate, he's been at this for a long time. We're going to make sure that we get the help to you as quickly as we can."
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told reporters at a Washington briefing the president had sent the same message to federal officials in charge of the recovery: "Get resources where they are needed as fast as possible without excuses or delay."
About 2,200 federal workers, as well as 7,400 National Guard troops, are working in New Jersey and 15 other storm-ravaged states, Napolitano said.
Napolitano said she expected the $3.6 billion available in FEMA's disaster relief fund would be adequate for Sandy response efforts.
Touring flood-damaged Sayreville in Middlesex County on Wednesday morning, Christie assured residents that FEMA offices soon would be open in their neighborhood and in others hard hit by Sandy.
When some residents complained that FEMA had not treated them appropriately after Hurricane Irene hit last year, Christie said: "Don't you worry about it. I'll be with the president this afternoon, and the head of FEMA."
A disabled great-grandmother, Dolores Beaton, 62, asked Christie to go into her home. He took her hand and led her through a huge puddle up onto her porch. Inside, furniture was toppled over and the house smelled like mildew. Wet bills were lying on a table. She said the recliner that she sleeps on had been ruined.
"Everything's gone," she said. "I can't replace anything. I have no money."
NAVY SENDS SHIPS: The U.S. Navy is sending three large-deck amphibious ships to waters off of New York and New Jersey to assist in storm recovery and relief, according to the Navy's chief of information. The moves "will allow our forces to be best-postured to minimize the amount of time it will take these forces to get on station if tasked," Rear Admiral John Kirby said.
Information from Bloomberg News was used in this report.