NEW JERSEY – The Senate Law and Public Safety Committee advanced legislation sponsored by Senators Linda Greenstein and Nellie Pou that would establish a permanent unit in the Office of Emergency Management to address the unique needs of residents with access and functional needs.
“During disasters and other emergencies, the government needs to be prepared to assist all of its residents, and that includes the needs of disabled residents, those who primarily speak languages other than English, and people with limited access to transportation,” said Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex), Chair of the Law and Public Safety Committee. “Nobody should be forgotten about during an emergency, and this bill will help ensure our state is as prepared as possible for the future.”
The bill, S-991, would establish a unit meant to ensure that emergency response plans are tailored to the needs of residents with access and functional needs. Under the bill, the term “access and functional needs” would include a person with a disability, senior citizens, a person with limited English proficiency, a person with limited access to transportation, and a person with limited access to financial resources that would enable them to prepare and recover from the effects of a disaster or emergency.
“This legislation would help make us better prepared when hurricanes, extreme flooding, or other emergencies threaten our communities,” said Pou (D-Bergen/Passaic). “According to the Centers for Disease Control, roughly one in five New Jerseyans have a disability. The state needs to account for them in our emergency responses, and plan out ahead of time how to best keep them safe.”
The unit established by the bill would consist of one full-time supervisor and a staff of three full-time planners to assist with the needs of the northern, central, and southern regions of the state in serving residents with access and functional needs.
The bill was advanced in a 5-0 vote.