LITTLE EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Local officials, who have pledged to help residents who lost everything during Hurricane Sandy, are crossing state lines to try to bring funding to the hardest-hit areas.
Township Mayor John Kehm said he emailed the Robin Hood Foundation after the 12-12-12 Sandy relief concert and was ecstatic to receive a response.
“One of the Robin Hood representatives emailed us about a month ago, and I wrote them back that we were very interested in getting as much help as we could,” Kehm said.
Patty Smith, spokeswoman for the Robin Hood Foundation, a New York City-based poverty-fighting charity, said that after Sandy struck, organization leaders realized they had to go beyond their borders.
The foundation has raised about $65 million since the hurricane.
“Immediately after the storm, and we realized what Sandy was going to do to the community, we reactivated the Robin Hood Relief Committee that was started in the wake of 9/11,” Smith said
The foundation benefited from donations collected during the 12-12-12 concert, Smith said.
“Before the concert, we had raised a little bit north of $14 million, and after the concert, it was over $50 million and counting,” she said.
The money came from corporate sponsorships, ticket sales, online and telephone donations, and the sale of merchandise, including concert iTunes downloads and CD sales, she said.
New Jersey has received about 34 percent of the money raised so far, and of the total funds dispersed, 36 percent has gone to housing for storm victims. New Jersey groups and organizations have received about $11 million, she said. The foundation has so far distributed $29.8 million between New Jersey and New York.
The Robin Hood Foundation is continuing dialogues with organizations because their goal is to have the money disbursed by the end of March, she said.
On Friday afternoon, township officials sat down with representatives from the foundation to discuss funding options.
“We have a list of people who are uninsured and don’t have the money. They need help to rebuild, and hopefully that can come from Robin Hood and the hazardous mitigation grant,” from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Kehm said. “Insurance companies still are not cooperating, and people still need help. They don’t have any money in their kitty to pay, and it’s ridiculous.”
Last month, Kehm wrote a letter to the foundation that spoke of the damage the township sustained during Sandy. Four thousand homes experienced substantial damage from flooding, wind, fire and falling debris, of which only 3,084 homes have flood insurance coverage, Kehm wrote.
In the letter, he stated that the most pressing need for residents is assistance in the raising of homes to meet new federal elevation regulations. Such projects can cost more than $30,000, Kehm said.
During the hour and a half meeting with the foundation Tuesday, it was determined that the focus of the funding from Robin Hood, if it is received, would be getting residents back into their homes and providing assistance with deposits for rentals, township Administrator Garrett Loesch said.
“We still have people living in trailers and campers in front of their homes,” Loesch said Friday.
Township officials have said they are unsure how many residents remain displaced, but there are many. Most are living with friends or relatives, Loesch said.
“We will probably form a committee and prepare a priority rating system to identify those in need,” Loesch said.
The township will have to apply for a dedicated trust through the state for the funding, which will be funneled through the township if it is received, he said.
“Funding could be very limited, we just don’t know right now. But I also stressed that we’d take any penny we can get,” Loesch said.
If the Robin Hood Foundation does give funding to the township, the help may come too late for Jean Velez, who has been displaced from her home since the day before the storm.
She was staying with friends until she recently found an apartment in Tuckerton.
On Friday, Velez said her home in the Mystic Islands section of the township will be going into foreclosure.
“The bank owns my house now. I just have to finish getting the rest of my stuff out. It was going to cost $52,000 to raise my house. FEMA is only going to give $30,000, and the mortgage company isn’t going to help. I don’t have that kind of money,” Velez said.
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