Four counties -- Hunterdon, Mercer, Warren and Sussex -- were singled out as eligible for the most aid, but the entire state can apply for assistance under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The grant program provides aid to state and local governments for actions taken to prevent or reduce long-term risk to life and property from natural hazards.

Hunterdon, Mercer and Warren counties are eligible for individual assistance and public assistance. Sussex County is eligible for public assistance.

Individual assistance is aid for individuals and households; public assistance is for aid to state and local governments as well as certain private nonprofit organizations for emergency work and the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged facilities.

``This aid will go a long way towards repairing the damages caused by the floods and helping folks get back on their feet,’’ Corzine said.

"I’m glad that they’ve recognized that this is a disaster," Palmer said. "We’re going to continue to work with our federal representatives to make sure that they really work with the residents."

Palmer said that beyond just cleaning up the mess and repairing the damage from the most recent flood, he wants to seize the moment to keep future floods from occurring.

"This is the first step in the process," he said. "But more than that, I’m going to keep pushing that we find ways in which we can stop the flooding in that area."

Palmer said there has been no consideration of permanently moving people out of the Island and Glen Afton neighborhoods, and said instead he wants to look more deeply into the conditions that have caused three historic floods inside of two years.

While damage assessments continue, emergency officials have determined more than 1,100 homes were damaged and less than 10 destroyed in the four counties most affected.

``In many cases, it makes people whole. In some cases, it doesn’t,’’ said State Police Capt. Jerome Hatfield, the acting head of the state Office of Emergency Management.

Starting Saturday, the state will assemble community relations teams to visit affected areas of Mercer, Warren and Hunterdon counties to explain the available programs to residents. Those with damage can also call 800-621-3362 for information.

Shortly after last week’s flooding, Rep. Chris Smith, R-Hamilton, and Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., toured flood-damaged areas along with emergency officials, and it was clear then that federal intervention would be needed.

``It was apparent to me that in addition to the goodwill and know-how of our local public servants, federal aid would still be necessary as the damage went far beyond the financial capabilities of the state, county and local governments to properly assist our residents,’’ Smith said.

Along with the money available both to individuals and local governments for clean-up and repair efforts, Smith also stressed the importance of the availability of flood mitigation funding through FEMA, where costs could bedivided between the federal and state governments at a 75-25 percent split.

"The disaster mitigation money, I think, will make a major difference in trying to break the cycle of repeat disaster," he said. "That opens up a new spigot of funds, so that we don’t find out six months from now or a year from now we have the exact same thing all over again."

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