Gov. Phil Murphy’s schedule said, “Announcement on Superstorm Sandy Recovery,” and you could be forgiven for reacting with a “Still?”
“For many New Jerseyans Sandy is just a memory. But, and again I don’t have to tell this group, but for roughly 1,000 families still rebuilding through the state’s programs, Superstorm Sandy never left,” Murphy said.
Murphy came to announce new funding. The venue was the Shark River Municipal Marina. It washed away in the superstorm, the governor said, and has been rebuilt stronger.
To the families still out of their homes, he said their long recovery nightmares can finally come to an end.
“First, I am happy to announce we have completed all the required paperwork, federal approvals, and public hearings needed for us to be able to provide an additional $50 — five zero — million in federal funds to homeowners struggling to finish rebuilding their Sandy-damaged homes,” Murphy said.
A $150,000 cap on federal grants is being eliminated, he said, and rental assistance is being extended.
“Of course, while rebuilding continues, families still need places to stay. To alleviate the burdens of both paying rent on a temporary home and a mortgage on the one being rebuilt, homeowners — and this is the second big announcement today — homeowners will now have access to an additional 19 months of federally-funded rental assistance,” the governor said.
Sen. Bob Menendez, who was also in attendance, has seen the frustrations of affected residents. “From the moment those dark clouds parted, we New Jerseyans were under no illusions. We knew that the road to recovery would be long; we knew that rebuilding our homes and communities would be less of a sprint and more of a marathon. But what no one expected were all the hurdles thrown in Sandy victims along the way,” he said.
Former Gov. Chris Christie made his name with his response to Sandy. His peak popularity came right after, so it was notable to hear the Democrats take a swipe at him at Monday’s event.
“This was never about fleeces or photo ops for me,” Menendez said.
“It’s easy to give somebody a hug, and everybody needs a hug once in a while, but this is a lot different today,” said state Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth).
Sandy was the worst natural disaster in state history. It damaged or destroyed 365,000 homes. All those homeowners have their stories.
“We had to fight with the flood insurance to get $84,000, and we had lost a home totally,” said Carol Martino, a Shark River Hills resident.
“I’ve been living with mold. In fact, I was just four weeks sick with mold,” said Vintner resident, Elizabeth Torsiello.
“There are a thousand people who are living without safety and security, and most people don’t know about that unfortunately,” said Kevin McGee, the executive director of SBP, the disaster-relief organization.
Listen to the stories of survivors, and you quickly become grateful you’re not one of them. Between the disruption, the bureaucracy and the fraud, being a storm victim is something you want to avoid.