Thursday is the last day Jersey Shore residents can apply for a chance at two grants to help them recover from Hurricane Sandy.
Thousands of residents have applied for the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation program and the Resettlement program, far outpacing the $780 million available to homeowners. However, the Department of Community Affairs is awaiting a second round of funding to come through the U.S. Housing and Urban Development sometime this fall.
“Very early on, I pledged my administration would distribute recovery funds as quickly as we possibly could to the people most impacted and most needy in our state, and with this program we're delivering on that pledge,” Gov. Chris Christie said Tuesday during a news conference in Little Ferry, Bergen County, where he announced the first checks of the resettlement program were being disbursed.
The resettlement grant provides $10,000 to homeowners to pay for nonconstruction costs, such as flood insurance premiums or furniture. The $180 million program was designed as a financial incentive to keep people in their storm-damaged communities, something Christie said was a lesson learned after Hurricane Katrina, which struck in 2005 and left large sections of New Orleans and coastal Mississippi abandoned.
“We wanted to make sure we gave people the money and the incentive to resettle right back where they were when Sandy hit,” he said.
As of Tuesday, 20,091 residents filed applications for the resettlement grants, and 15,443 of the applications were received by June 30. The state has approved 11,026 applicants, 923 were put on a waiting list and 4,337 were determined to be ineligible, Ryan said. The remaining applications are still being processed.
About 14,257 residents have applied for the RREM program, which pays qualifying homeowners as much as $150,000 to repair, elevate or restore their storm damaged houses, said DCA spokeswoman Lisa Ryan. About 2,000 of those applications came after the initial application deadline of June 30, she said.
Of the initial 12,255 residents who applied, only about one in four were told they received preliminary approval for the grant, she said. About 5,850 residents were put on a waiting list for either additional federal funding or for money leftover from the initial round, Ryan said.
Nearly 2,500 applications were rejected because homeowners were determined to be ineligible, but those homeowners can appeal. Ryan said the appeals process is ongoing.
To apply for the grants, call 1-855-726-3946 or visit www.renewjerseystronger.org.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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