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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Still no homecoming
Nine months after Sandy, displaced residents express frustration with federal funding
By Alexandra Spychalsky
Courtesy Anita Daly
Resident Anita Daly, outside her New Hampshire Street home, said that she has yet to return because of federal funding hurdles.

Nine months after Hurricane Sandy, there has been no ribbon-cutting ceremony at Anita Daly’s home. Her house remains a vacant shell, one of the many that line her West End block.

This week marked nine months since Sandy devastated Long Beach, and progress among residents couldn’t be more varied. For some, work on their homes has stalled while they wait for government funding. Others have returned, but only because they decided not to wait for the money. And as rental assistance provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency begins to run out, some are just scrambling to find a place to live.

Daly has not been able to begin reconstruction on her New Hampshire Street home, because she says she does not have enough money to rebuild yet. Her insurance settlement was less than half of her $375,000 quote. And although she took on a Small Business Administration loan, she said she has yet to see a dime.

“Who can afford to build a house for $160,000?” she said of the amount she has been promised so far. “A lot of us are sitting around waiting.”

Daly is just one of many residents who are waiting to see how much money they are eligible for under the NY Rising grant program. The grant money comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, but is administered by the state. In April, HUD allocated $1.7 billion in community development block grant funds to New York, to be used for storm relief for Sandy, Irene and Lee. Of those funds, $838 million was earmarked for housing programs.

When the application for the grant was first released, Daly said she applied immediately, which was no easy task. The application required her to scan in numerous documents and took hours to complete, especially when the site kept crashing and losing her information.

Complaints about the program have grown since the initial technical difficulties. Representatives originally said that the grant would fill in the funding gaps left by FEMA, SBA and insurance. It was touted as flexible, unrestricted money for home and business owners. However, as time goes on, more stipulations on the funding have been revealed. Homeowners say that conflicting information is being spread, and no one knows what is true.

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