FEMA officials in Egg Harbor Township help Sandy victims deal with complexity of relief possibilities
EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Township residents and others sought help from federal officials on how to navigate the varied and complex channels of disaster recovery at a special meeting Thursday night.
About 100 people attended the forum at the Egg Harbor Township Community Center, where speakers about Hurricane Sandy relief included representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Administration.
Many who attended were like Cathy Stanley, 52, who lives in the Seaview Harbor section of the township. She leaned over a one of a dozen folding tables, clutching a worn notebook of data and speaking with FEMA reps Katelynne Wolf and Cheryl Copeland about the its Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.
The program potentially offers grants of up to 75 percent to elevate buildings, buy properties and build minor flood-control projects, Wolf said in an earlier presentation.
But people interested in the program have to file with their local municipality, who will prioritize and forward the list to Trenton, where government officials will ultimately decide which projects receive funding.
Wolf said the process would take up to a year and warned that anyone who applies and then goes forward with a project before being formally approved, would be stripped of eligibility.
Stanley, who has lived in the house with her husband for seven years, said the house had about 17 inches of water in the ground floor. Reconstruction is mostly complete, she said, but said her husband believes the new flood maps indicate they will have to elevate the home 11 feet.
“I’m going to apply,” Stanley said.
The meeting came on the Gov. Chris Christie announced new, tougher flood maps for post-Sandy rebuilding that will force some homeowners and businesses to either relocate or build at higher levels. Speaking in Seaside Heights, the governor said property owners who build to the new standards won’t have to apply for flood hazard permits, saving design and engineering costs and about $500 in fees.
As the state and region recover from fall’s crippling Hurricane Sandy, a number of towns, churches and others have set up meetings for federal officials to walk residents through the upcoming steps of recovery.
At times officials have been met by residents who are confused, frustrated and lacking information about how to proceed.
Officials previously took questions in Margate and Brigantine in separate December meetings. In Little Egg Harbor Township, more than 900 people packed into the Pinelands Regional High School for a presentation Jan. 4.
Darrell Habisch, a FEMA spokesperson, said the organization has been called on to provide subject matter experts for a variety of events organized by local officials, schools, businesses and others. These events have included town hall meetings as well as information workshops.
Habisch said he believed the information would likely vary. FEMA and officials from the Small Business Administration plan to help residents process and return the assistance packets by the March 1 deadline.
Other experts would likely include people to explain the National Flood Insurance Program or otherwise address rebuilding, repair or new elevation standards.
Two FEMA Disaster Recovery centers remain open in Atlantic County: at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, and adjacent to the Hamilton Mall, 4403 Black Horse Pike.
While FEMA has received much of the attention, the SBA offers up to 30-year federal loans to homeowners, renters and businesses. Loans can go up to $200,000 for homes, $40,000 for personal property and $2 million apiece for both damage to businesses and for working capital.
Barb Kyle, 50, lives on Naples Avenue in the West Atlantic City section of the township, where 3 feet of floodwater inundated the home. Forced into a hotel, her family moved back in Dec. 1, even though the walls were largely stripped to bare studs.
As a real estate professional, she wondered what would happen to the region if properties became too costly to either protect or insure. “It’s going to be devastating,” she said.
Contact Derek Harper:
Follow Derek Harper on Twitter @dnharper