TOMS RIVER – Ocean County’s Long-Term Recovery Group is seeking $20 million in funds for a coordinated program that it says can help get more Sandy victims back into their homes.
The group is an umbrella organization of more than 80 nonprofits that has worked to provide money and volunteer labor that helps fill gaps between a homeowners’ resources and the actual cost of rebuilding. The recovery group recently submitted its request to the state Department of Community Affairs, and is seeking money from the $502 million New Jersey is slated to received in the third round of federal Sandy recovery funds.
It is asking for the $20 million to be distributed over the next two years.
The long-term recovery group argues that it has come up with a successful formula to help homeowners get back to their houses. At a recent DCA hearing on the state’s plans for distributing what is likely the last round of federal Sandy money, many homeowners praised the work of the long-term recovery group, with several asking the state to give the group more money.
The long-term recovery group has assisted homeowners by assigning a disaster case manager to walk residents through the often-cumbersome process of applying for the state’s flagship rebuilding program, the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) program. The group also provides financial and housing counseling and resources that help bridge the gap between the amount homeowners actually need to rebuild and elevate their homes, and the monies they receive from RREM grants and insurance proceeds.
The Christie administration plans to spend the majority of the $502 million in federal storm recovery aid on restoring homes and expanding a fund that finances thousands of affordable rental units for low- and moderate-income families.
“The successes of the Ocean County Long Term Recovery Group and most nonprofits helping households still struggling to recover from Superstorm Sandy have been predominantly fueled by the philanthropic community. With these funds running out, households that are counting on financial assistance, disaster case management and other services to help navigate through the complex recovery process — including the State’s RREM program — will suffer another setback,” said Susan Marticek, executive director of the Ocean County Long-Term Recovery Group. “We know that we can be a valuable partner and collaborator with the State to get these families home quicker but it’s going to take some flexibility and a re-thinking of how our State plans to spend Sandy recovery funds.”
Many homeowners have turned to long-term recovery its partners, including the Affordable Housing Alliance and A Future with Hope, for one-on-one assistance to overcome barriers that have delayed the start or completion of their project.
In the first half of 2014, the long-term recovery group distributed $885,839 to 94 cases.
By July, the long-term recovery group and the State started to collaborate on RREM cases. From July through December, $1,569,514 was distributed to 212 cases, and 103 of these cases received rental assistance.
“Without the support from the Governor’s Office, the fragile recovery framework now in place will quickly begin to dissolve. Failure to maintain focus and momentum in these recovery efforts will curtail any chances for victims still rebuilding as well as cause long-term economic impact for all New Jersey taxpayers,” said Donna Blaze, CEO of the Affordable Housing Alliance.
The long-term recovery group has hosted 15 workshops over the past four months to help homeowners better understand the RREM program.
Jean Mikle: (732) 643-4050, firstname.lastname@example.org