Sandy's displaced feel forgotten, poll finds

Posted: October 29, 2013

 JERSEY SHORE The New Jersey residents hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy feel forgotten as they struggle to regain their former lives, a Monmouth University Polling Institute survey released Monday shows.

"New Jerseyans who were displaced by the storm . . . are significantly more negative than other Garden State residents about the pace and focus of recovery," said Patrick Murray, director of the institute.

Over the last few weeks, survey takers telephoned 683 New Jerseyans where were displaced from their homes for at least one month. Three out of four, 75 percent, agreed they had "largely been forgotten in the recovery effort."

By contrast, 76 percent of New Jersey residents who responded said that, in general, they were satisfied with the state's recovery work, according to a poll the university conducted in September.

"The Sandy recovery effort is certainly a tale of two states," Murray said in announcing the survey.

Sandy slammed the Jersey coast a year ago Tuesday, on Oct. 29, 2012, making landfall near Brigantine and wreaking havoc everywhere - particularly in New Jersey and New York.

Of the 683 people surveyed, more than half, 57 percent, are still displaced. Of them, one in four say they'll never return home.

On Tuesday, Monmouth will release a second wave of data based on the same interviews describing how people displaced from their homes interacted with government assistance agencies and insurance companies.

Immediately after the storm, people displaced needed help with the obvious - obtaining furniture and appliances, finding a temporary place to live, help making rent and mortgage payments, help with food and utilities, according to the survey.

A year later, those needs have somewhat lessened but are still pressing among those who have yet to return home. For example, 62 percent of those who remain displaced need help replacing furniture and appliances, and nearly half are struggling to pay their rent, the survey showed.

Some people, about 7 percent, remain housed in trailers or recreational vehicles, and 1 percent are still living in hotels.

One in four say their employment situation has worsened since the storm, and that's particularly true for those still waiting to return home.

Only one in 10 of those who were displaced for a month feel fully recovered. One in six say they'll never recover. Recovery is on the horizon in the next few months for 15 percent, and by next year for an additional 28 percent, the survey showed.

There are some slight differences among those still displaced - they tend to be younger, poorer, and renters, but, Murray said, those differences are minor.

"They run the gamut," he said.

Those who have been displaced longest tend to be those whose homes were hit hardest, and that, he said, is an accident of geography. "You happen to be the one closest to the storm surge, rather than the one a block away," he said.

Most frustrating to him, he said, is the difficulty in assembling the data. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has collected some data, but some people didn't apply for aid.

Because of the difficulty in collecting data, the survey series underway at Monmouth is not intended to be statistically representative. It is designed more to provide a look at issues still facing those impacted by the storm.

Monmouth's research, funded by a New Jersey Recovery Fund grant from the Community Foundation of New Jersey and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, will track the same people over a longer period to see how they cope in the future, he said.




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