In New York, for example, FEMA has publicized assistance, including rental payments for those whose homes are uninhabitable. Individuals can apply for grants for home repairs and to meet disaster-related needs. Money also is available for construction of a home.
FEMA set up online pages for Connecticut, New York and New Jersey storm victims.
But not everyone is happy with the Sandy response by governments.
Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro said Thursday that residents did not receive timely information on how to get food, shelter and tools for putting their lives back together.
"There was no one there to answer these questions," Molinaro said. "I need answers, and the people need answers."
On Friday, Napolitano is expected to visit Staten Island with FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino to meet with state and local officials about response and recovery.
Ten buses stocked with needed goods were transported to the island Thursday, and FEMA has promised to have a team working with Molinaro on the ground Friday, he said.
The 2,200 people FEMA says it has poured into dealing with Sandy are about as many as it had on its entire payroll at the time of Katrina. The agency also has improved ties with its state and local counterparts as well as other arms of the federal government, said Redlener, the Columbia University disaster preparedness center director.
In addition, Fugate "has been able to attract staff back into the agency, and they have a very competent midlevel management layer to help organize efforts," Redlener said. "They're still probably underfunded, but their staffing is much, much better," he said.
FEMA's current budget is about $7 billion.
For Sandy, the agency said nine task forces were supporting local search-and-rescue operations. FEMA mobile units are providing logistics support for response efforts.
"Community relations teams are on the ground in the hardest-hit areas of the mid-Atlantic going door-to-door to inform disaster survivors about available services and resources and to gather situational awareness," FEMA said in a statement issued Wednesday.
By comparison, at the time of Katrina, FEMA had manpower and planning problems and confusion about the roles of officials in responding to disasters, according to a 2006 report by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general.
The report said that with the destruction of communications infrastructure, it took FEMA officials about three days after Katrina's landfall to grasp the magnitude of the hurricane's destruction.
The report cited shortcomings with delivering housing and being prepared to conduct a massive search-and-rescue function. The Katrina report, which made 38 recommendations, said FEMA needed to improve the tracking of supplies.
The experts said it appears that lessons have been learned.
Lockwood said Fugate's philosophy has been that FEMA "is not the team -- they are part of the team."
"That's one of the biggest things that has come out post-Katrina," he said. "There is a cooperative relationship now between local, state and federal agencies to meet the need and fill the gaps."
FEMA's recent performance also won high marks from a former chief, James Lee Witt, who led the agency during the Clinton administration.