New Jersey residents whose homes suffered damage during Hurricane Sandy can now apply for their piece of $1.8 billion in federal grant dollars.
Initially, grant applications can be filed over the phone at 1-855-726-3946 or online at www.renewjerseystronger.org.
But starting in early June, the state will open intake centers in the hardest hit coastal counties, where residents can apply in person, said Richard E. Constable, III, Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, the agency handling the recovery grant distribution.
Grants that are available include up to $150,000 to raise or rebuild storm-damaged houses through the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation program. There also is a "resettlement" grant of up to $10,000, which the state's approved plan for how it will dole out the grant money says can be used to help pay for future flood insurance premiums in order to encourage residents to remain in their homes and stabilize neighborhoods.
Reconstruction grants are supposed to pay for repairs that were not covered under insurance or federal assistance, such as grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency or loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration. Applicants will be required to provide proof of all expenses and must have registered with FEMA before the May 1 deadline.
Priority for the rebuilding grants will be given to low to moderate income homeowners whose houses suffered "substantial" damage during the storm, meaning the cost of the damage is equal to or exceeds 50 percent of the building's pre-storm value. To be eligible, the house must have been owner-occupied when Sandy struck on October 29. Grants also will be available for those homeowners who make more than the moderate income threshold as long as the total household incomes is less than $250,000 a year.
Applications will be evaluated as they come in and about $6,000 grants will be available.
The resettlement grant program of up to $10,000 is intended to encourage homeowners of storm-damaged properties to stay either in their home, or at least the county they were living in. The program, initially introduced as a way to finalize repairs, now can be used to help pay for rising flood insurance premiums, according to the plan approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
"The state expects a $10,000 grant that households could use toward addressing any increases in insurance premiums, in addition to other needs, will alter the calculation for many homeowners and incentivize them to remain part of their communities during New Jersey's recovery," the plan states.
Homeowners who receive these grants must remain in the county of their damaged home for three consecutive years after they receive the award. Applicants must have registered with FEMA and have sustained at least $8,000 in damage or more than a foot of flooding on the first floor during Sandy.