Gov. Phil Murphy makes a Sandy recovery announcement at the Shark River Hills Municipal Marina in Neptune on April 8, 2019. Photo by Edwin J. Torres/ Governor’s Office.

NEPTUNE – State and federal officials announced Monday, April 8 that they have agreed to remove the cap on Hurricane Sandy-related funds, allowing homeowners who have long been in limbo to complete construction on their primary homes. Additionally, those still impacted by Sandy will be able to get additional months of rental assistance.

These efforts to support homeowners in the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation, and Mitigation (RREM) Program and the Low-to-Moderate Income (LMI) Homeowner Rebuilding Program to the finish line were recently approved by the federal government, Gov. Phil Murphy said.

“My Administration’s goal is to get more funding into the hands of Sandy-impacted families who have run out of money and legitimately need additional resources to finish construction,”Gov. Phil Murphy said. “Federal approval of our plan puts us one significant step closer to making this a reality. For the families who have yet to complete their rebuilding efforts, we recognize the difficulties you’ve endured. But we hope the actions we’ve taken over the last year eliminate the challenges that remain and demonstrate our commitment to helping all who were so devastated by Superstorm Sandy.”

“The 1,200 or so New Jerseyans who remain in the state rebuilding program have been through hell and back again. Some were defrauded by their building contractor; some had to spend tens of thousands of dollars fighting flood insurance companies in court; and some remain paralyzed by the fear of dreaded claw-back letters,” U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez said. “These Sandy survivors have faced many different obstacles. But at the end of the day they all share the same dream of returning home and getting on with their lives. Their marathon is not yet over but today the finish line is on the horizon, and the day they can return home is within reach.”

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone said the funds will come from the Sandy relief package approved by Congress following the 2012 hurricane.

“It has been nearly six and a half years since Sandy devastated our shore communities,” Pallone said. “We cannot lose sight of the fact that New Jerseyans continue to recover to this day. This assistance, which will come from the Sandy relief package that I fought for in Congress, will significantly help to remove financial barriers for New Jersey residents who are still working to return to their homes.”

Lt. Governor Sheila Y. Oliver said affected homeowners will no longer be limited to a $150,000 grant and that $50 million would be added to the RREM and LMI programs.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development agreed to reallocate $50 million of federal Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds to the RREM Program and the LMI Program to provide additional construction funding that should remove any financial roadblocks to a full recovery for these families.

Also, homeowners in the RREM Program and LMI Program who are in construction can receive up to $1,300 per month for a total of 40 months through the Rental Assistance while their homes are being rebuilt. Homeowners who accept a Supplemental Fund award will be required to live in the home for five years following construction completion.

“More than six years later, struggling Sandy families need a lifeline to get across the finish line and finally make it back home,” said Amanda Devecka-Rinear, executive director of the New Jersey Organizing Project.

The NJ Organizing Project, which advocates for Sandy relief, will hold a meeting on the topic 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, April 27, at Atlantic County Library/Ventnor, 6500 Atlantic Ave.

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Nanette LoBiondo Galloway

Award winning journalist covering news, events and people of Atlantic County for more than 20 years.