Shore homeowners hoping for help to raise or rebuild houses damaged during Hurricane Sandy can begin applying for the various programs Friday.
At first, the grant applications will be taken over the phone at 1-855-726-3946 or online at www.sandyhelp.nj.gov. Early next month, the Department of Community Affairs will open intake centers in the hardest-hit coastal counties, including Atlantic, Cape May and Ocean counties, where residents can apply in person, spokeswoman Lisa Ryan said.
Homeowners can apply for several programs, including a grant of as much as $150,000 through the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation Program, and a grant of as much as $10,000 for rising flood insurance premiums through the Housing Resettlement Program, according to the plan approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The reconstruction grants are designed to pay for repairs that insurance or previous federal assistance, including grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration, did not cover. Applicants will be required to show proof of expenses and, to be eligible, homeowners must have registered with FEMA before the May 1 deadline.
Gov. Chris Christie and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said last month, when announcing the state’s plan to spend a $1.8 billion allocation in federal disaster aid, that New Jersey will be coordinating paperwork with the federal government as a way to reduce paperwork.
Christie also said that, to prevent corruption, the state will maintain a list of certified contractors who will do the work and be paid directly through the state, which will ensure the work is completed. Contractors who want to apply to get on the approved list may call 1-855-726-3946.
Priority for the $150,000 grant program will be given to homeowners who are considered low to moderate income and whose houses were substantially damaged during the storm. The house must have been owner-occupied when Sandy struck Oct. 29. Homeowners who do not fall in the low-to-moderate-income threshold still can apply, but the total household income must be less than $250,000 per year. Applications will be evaluated on a first-come, first-served basis. About 6,000 grants will be available.
The resettlement grant program, initially introduced as a way to help homeowners finalize repairs, now is intended to help homeowners pay toward rising flood insurance premiums, according to the approved plan. “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 must have suffered flood losses to their homes valued at at least $8,000 or have had more than one foot of water on the first floor. As many as 18,000 grants are available, according to the plan.
The grants, through the Community Development Block Grant program, are part of the $60 billion federal disaster aid package approved by Congress in January. This is the largest expansion of the CDBG program in history, HUD has said.
Ryan said customer service representatives will be able to process applications and answer questions about the process beginning Friday. However, the phone lines already are staffed between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. Residents also can sign up for updates on a special Hurricane Sandy relief website or contact DCA’s hotline to be notified when programs become available.
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