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All posts in 2016

06 May 2016

Sandy advocate calls for investigation of FEMA

TOMS RIVER — Saying the Jersey Shore’s recovery has been “cut off at the knees” because of lowball flood insurance payments, a Sandy advocate has repeated the call for an investigation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Sue Marticek, executive director of the Ocean County Long-Term Recovery Group, said paltry flood insurance payments have made it extremely difficult for Sandy victims to rebuild and elevate their homes.

The state’s largest Sandy recovery program, Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation, and Mitigation (RREM), was never intended to be the primary source of funds for rebuilding, she said. RREM offers grants of up to $150,000 for rebuilding and elevating primary residences.

“If FEMA and flood insurance would have paid those claims fairly, the RREM program would not have been the major part of people’s budgets,” Marticek said. “…We all really do need to be upset about what’s happened and transpired here.”

The long-term recovery group, an umbrella organization of about 80 nonprofit groups, has spent $5.8 million to help Sandy survivors get back home. About 80 percent of those who have received help from the group did have flood insurance, Marticek noted.

“You see, after paying premiums in good faith for years and in some cases decades, many up and down our coastline feel they have been shortchanged in their payouts which has created a nightmare for them to try to return home,” she said.

Last week, a former FEMA contractor said he was told to deny or underpay claims exceeding certain ranges in deciding compensation for Superstorm Sandy victims. 

Those decisions were made as part of FEMA’s Hurricane Sandy Claims Review Process, which was put in place following allegations of fraud in the initial claims process.

05 May 2016

Springsteen lends song to Sandy fundraising

29 Apr 2016

EDITORIAL: Sandy victims don’t deserve FEMA

28 Apr 2016

EX-FEMA contractor says agency shortchanged Superstorm Sandy victims

25 Apr 2016

Millions of tax dollars lost in Sandy contractor fraud | Di Ionno

The money came and the money went, and nobody was watching.

Now, it’s a police problem.

That is the abridged version of the hurricane-related contractor fraud that has left thousands of homeowners stuck in the “disaster after the disaster” known as the Sandy recovery.

No place is it worse than sprawling Ocean County, where the storm left the most damage over the largest area.

“The government wanted to get recovery money into the hands of the people who were devastated as quickly as possible,” said Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato. “Unfortunately, there are people out there taking advantage of other people’s misery. They were victimized a second time.”

Coronato’s office has already secured 49 indictments involving Sandy-related fraud, and there are another 50 active investigations. Several small cases were previously adjudicated through restitution or the pretrial intervention, Coronato said, but the bigger cases are now being lined up for trials or pleas.

And while those numbers don’t seem staggering, the contractors are alleged to each have victimized an average of four to five homeowners. Several are accused of defrauding 20 to 30 clients. When you do the math, that’s thousands of people left holding the bag – a bag of empty promises and emptied of cash.

That’s just in Ocean County – it doesn’t even include another hundred or so cases in that are being handled by local police in the county.

Contractors under investigation Ocean County have allegedly walked away with over $5 million.”
03 Mar 2016

N.J. extends rental assistance for Sandy victims

TRENTON — Sandy victims whose rental assistance was about to run out can now breathe a sigh of relief: the state has agreed to extend the program for an additional year.

The New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency board agreed to extend temporary rental help for an additional year for residents who have been forced to pay rent while they are rebuilding their homes. That means eligible homeowners can receive up to 21 months of rental assistance.

RELATED:  Sandy rental aid raises monthly payments

Rental assistance is available to homeowners in the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) and Low- and Moderate-Income (LMI) Homeowners Rebuilding programs. Homeowners can receive up to $1,300 a month for rent payments.

“The state is taking positive steps to meet the ongoing need of homeowners in the RREM Program and LMI Program for temporary rental assistance as they complete the construction and, in many cases, elevation of their Sandy-damaged homes,” said Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Charles A. Richman, who chairs the HMFA Board.

The HMFA, which is an affiliated agency of DCA, administers the Rental Assistance Program.

The decision to extend the program came on the same day that 42 nonprofit groups and legislators wrote a letter to Richman, saying that without rental assistance many families would not have enough money to get back home. More than three years after Sandy struck, 69 percent of families in the RREM program are still not back in their houses, the letter said.

04 Feb 2016

What to do if HUD agents knock on your door

03 Feb 2016

Lessons of Sandy: Raising homes paid off for some

Sharon Stabley

HE ELEVATED: Larry Johnson is happy he raised his Ocean City home after Sandy. It used to sit as low as his neighbor’s. In January, water intruded only in the garage, which was built to withstand it. ‘My first floor is 15 feet off the ground, so there’s no issue there,‘ he says.

Larry Johnson got 2 inches of water in his Ocean City home in Hurricane Sandy, just enough to force him to rip out all the flooring and 2 feet of the walls and treat the house for mold.

But when January’s nor’easter hit New Jersey, he didn’t worry about any Sandy reruns — even as he watched water flow down his street “like a river, almost” from a storm that set high-tide records farther south in Cape May County.

After Sandy, Johnson and his wife, Maria, ripped down their old rancher and rebuilt. Their home now sits on top of marine-grade piling that kept everything but the garage high and dry in this flooding.

And all it took to fix that was a power-washer.

“I know where I live, and I know when there’s tidal flooding, I’m at risk,” he said. “But my first floor is 15 feet off the ground, so there’s no issue there.”

Flooding varies by storm, and Sandy’s worst-hit areas fared better in many cases than southern Cape May County towns did in this storm.

But another difference between the two storms is that after Sandy, many homeowners went through the complex, confusing and expensive process of having their houses raised, or knocking them down and starting over higher.

Others couldn’t or didn’t navigate the forms and funding frustration it took to elevate their homes.

19 Jan 2016

New concerns in New Jersey’s superstorm recovery for 2016

New challenges are arising for Sandy-impacted homeowners till trying to rebuild from the October, 2012 hurricane.

Sue Marticek, executive director of the Ocean County Long Term Recovery Group (OCLTRG), said some residents who were forced to knock down their homes or took advantage of free municipal demolition programs thinking they were saving money, are now having difficulty getting additional funding from their National Flood Insurance Policy (NFIP) claims.

“We have a big challenge trying to fight for them for their foundations because they don’t have the house anymore,” said Marticek.

Marticek explained that proving Sandy damaged the foundation is difficult for those who may not have had photo proof or an independent engineering report as evidence.

“There was never any clarity to these homeowners from day one. You have one government agency telling you to do one thing, you have another government agency telling you do do another. The lack of clarity for these homeowners from the start has really cost them a lot,” Marticek said.

Marticek added that asking people to go back more than three years to show evidence again to justify a case for additional funding is difficult.

Sandy survivors are dealing with three major obstacles at this stage in the recovery, according to Marticek.

“One is again, dealing with the NFIP review process; two is still navigating and closing out of the RREM [Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation] program; and then three is contractor fraud and disputes. Those three issues are basically the biggest stumbling blocks in this recovery,” said Marticek.

Marticek said workshops covering those three areas will be needed this year, in 2016 with professionals who can get to the bottom of the cases and help clients.

“The amount of contractor fraud and contractor disputes that are out there is phenomenal, and when the dust settles, I think that is going to be, if not the biggest obstacle that hit New Jersey, it’s going to be up there in the top three easily,” Marticek said.

Marticek added that when a homeowner gets ripped off or they’re in a dispute, they’re recovery comes to a complete halt.

The OCLTRG has been working with the Volunteer Lawyers for Justice and the Community Health Law Project to create a Sandy task force to review each case individually.

Marticek pointed out that she thinks non-profit builders will have a more significant role this year.

“I think they are truly are going to be the last hope for a lot of people,” added Marticek.
Read More: New concerns in New Jersey’s superstorm recovery for 2016 |

29 Oct 2015

Sandy: Three years later, almost home