Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Sandy Relief: Christie Seeks Added Fed Aid

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie yesterday submitted a request to President Obama for a six-month extension of a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) temporary housing assistance program that continues to shelter 81 of the hardest hit families who have not been able to find more permanent housing or repair their homes damaged in Superstorm Sandy. The assistance is currently scheduled to end on April 1, 2014.

“While most Sandy-impacted residents have returned to stable homes in their communities, some of the most vulnerable families still have not been able to secure permanent housing despite best efforts to assist them,” said Governor Christie. “A six-month extension of temporary housing assistance would tremendously help these residents and provide them with more time to find longer term housing solutions.”

In the aftermath of the storm, the Christie Administration requested that the federal government activate FEMA’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program, which allowed eligible Sandy survivors who could not return to their homes because of damage caused by the storm to stay in participating hotels and motels until more permanent housing was found. The state also requested the federal government to provide temporary housing for displaced residents at the former Fort Monmouth military base, which is located in close proximity to some of the hardest hit communities. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers renovated 122 vacant units for this purpose. The state also requested temporary housing units (THUs) - manufactured homes that are placed on existing commercial mobile home park pads - so that residents wishing to be temporarily housed in or near their communities could do so. The THU option was selected by 85 households.

More than 5,500 households were participating in the TSA program at its peak and the state was able to transition these residents out of the program and into more suitable housing within six months of the storm through aggressive outreach and case management. Additionally, many Sandy-displaced families have moved out of the Fort Monmouth temporary housing and THUs and into permanent housing.

However, the Christie Administration, working in close collaboration with FEMA, continues to actively case manage approximately 81 families - 49 families living at Fort Monmouth and approximately 32 families who are in THUs. Of the 81 families, 75 are homeowners, most of whom are still awaiting insurance settlements to fund repairs and 31 of the families have been preliminarily approved for rebuilding grants under the State’s Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program.

“These residents are facing extraordinary circumstances in their marathon efforts to return to a normal life,” said New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Richard E. Constable, III, whose department administers most of the state’s Sandy housing recovery programs. “We are hopeful that FEMA direct housing assistance will continue to support the Christie Administration’s housing recovery initiatives so that we collectively can help these Sandy-displaced families cross the finish line and move into permanent housing.”

Governor Christie in his request to President Obama said the state is building thousands of affordable housing units to replenish the substantially depleted rental supply in communities impacted by the storm and noted that this building takes time.

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