Christie releases $57M in Sandy aid

Homes in Mantoloking, which was severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy. US Strong wants the fund to aid vulnerable communities and be immune to political crosswinds.
Homes in Mantoloking, which was severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy. US Strong wants the fund to aid vulnerable communities and be immune to political crosswinds. (MEL EVANS / AP)
Posted: October 24, 2013

TRENTON Gov. Christie on Tuesday announced a $57 million Sandy aid program to help families still displaced and at risk of foreclosure or other financial and housing instability.

Also Tuesday, Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard E. Constable III said New Jersey had completed grant signings of more than 100 applicants to the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program, obligating more than $7.8 million in assistance.

The RREM program, which offers household grants of up to $150,000, has been dogged by complaints of cumbersome hoops.

"This is money homeowners can bank on," Constable said in a statement. "We have scheduled another 200 grant signings with RREM applicants through the end of this month."

That will put the total, including reimbursement of work previously done, between $20 million and $30 million of the $600 million pot. About 3,500 applications were approved; an additional 7,700 are on hold pending additional federal money.

"As federally mandated environmental reviews are completed, we are immediately scheduling grant signings for RREM homeowners," Constable said. "Millions more in assistance will be committed to homeowners in need in the coming months."

The new voucher program, called the Working Families Living Expenses Voucher Program, offers aid of up to $15,000 and up to six months per household to cover essential items when they return to their homes, as well as provides temporary rental and mortgage support for families "financially strained due to the costs associated with the storm."

The program, to be administered through county social service agencies, seeks to help families to both pay for temporary housing and to avoid losing their original primary residence.

"Homeowners and renters who are under- or unemployed due to the storm and in need of additional help to stabilize their finances may also benefit," the state said in a news release. The funding is through a federal Social Services Block Grant to the state Department of Human Services.

The release says: "Funds will be distributed through the county Boards of Social Services or other agencies in the form of direct payments to billing agencies or vouchers to select vendors for eligible residents."

Allowable expenses include: retroactive and current rent/mortgage/utility payments, beds, cribs, linens, towels, furniture, appliances, hot water heaters, pots and pans, air conditioners, and lighting. People interested in applying for the program can visit www.NJ211.org or call 211 to find out where to apply.


arosenberg@phillynews.com

609-823-0453

@amysrosenberg

www.inquirer.com/downashore

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