New York and New Jersey are now major disaster areas: What does that mean?


Flooding from Hurricane Sandy in Atlantic City, New Jersey.


Mark Wilson

When the United States President declares an area to be suffering from a "major disaster," you know that it's bad.

But when two states are declared major disaster zones before officials have even finished calculating the damages, it's worse.

That's what happened Tuesday morning when President Barack Obama declared New York and New Jersey as major disaster areas. Disaster declarations are normally not announced until after the post-storm assessments are finished, USA Today reported. "This was so evident how bad it was that the president said, 'let's just get this done,'" said Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, on The Weather Channel. 

Major disaster declarations are made to help affected areas get money: as the Associated Press explains, the declaration makes federal funding available to areas that need it.The declaration can include grants for temporary housing, home repairs and local government agencies. The money also includes programs to help business owners recover from the effects of a disaster. People can also get unemployment payment through the federal funds. 

In New Jersey, FEMA says that federal funding is available for Atlantic, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, and Union counties. In New York state, FEMA says that the affected areas are Bronx, Kings, Nassau, New York, Richmond, Suffolk, and Queens counties.