Hurricane Sandy victims statewide may soon see some much-needed financial relief.
The New York Rising program, tasked with distributing $1.7 billion in federal Sandy aid money allocated to the state, began releasing grant award letters this week.
The program was announced in April as a way to help homeowners fill the funding gaps left by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Small Business Administration and their insurance, a reimbursement process that residents and local officials described as sluggish and complicated.
NY Rising has received 4,300 applications for homeowner assistance from across the state — 4,000 from Long Island alone — and enrollment remains open. Statewide, $484 million has been authorized for awards so far, $451 million of that total for Long Islanders.
Some residents who have received letters, however, say the money is not what they were hoping for, and that the way the grant is set up prevents them from supplementing it with an SBA loan. According to Seth Diamond, the state director of the governor’s storm recovery office, that funds represent the total unmet need of the homeowner: the cost to repair the house, offset by other benefits, like FEMA and insurance reimbursements and other grants.
Generally, the maximum award is $300,000, but, according to Diamond, homeowners must follow rebuilding guidelines. Some green building standards will be imposed, only certain materials are approved for use and the grant will not pay for “luxury items,” he said. For homeowners who have already gone ahead with work, their expenses may be reimbursable. And those for whom the cost of repairs is more than 50 percent of the value of their home, and who live within the “100-year floodplain,” are eligible for an additional $50,000 to raise their homes, Diamond said.
“In general, this is a very comprehensive program,” he said. “It addresses gaps that people have been worried about for things like earth movement or bulkheads that they wouldn’t have been able to receive funding for.”