$1M grant from Red Cross to aid LI-based Sandy victims

The American Red Cross awarded a $1 million grant Thursday so the United Way of Long Island could help three groups assist Hispanics affected by superstorm Sandy.

The United Way will provide sub-grants to Adelante of Suffolk County Inc., Hispanic Brotherhood of Rockville Centre Inc. and La Fuerza Unida Inc. to administer help with home repairs.

"Ten months after Sandy, the reality here on Long Island is that you have two Long Islands," said Michael Balboni, former New York State senator and a Red Cross board member. "One that is an island that basically didn't have that much of an impact and is recovering and moving on and there's another side that is in desperate need."


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United Way will use the money to set up two case managers at each organization for up to 18 months. Those workers will be able to provide assistance for the organizations, such as navigating the housing permit process, financial support for home repairs and other services as needed.

The goal in the initiative is to help those who make less than $90,000 per household and not those with $200,000, said United Way president and chief executive Theresa Regnante. She said her group will add $400,000 to the cause.

"The response of the Red Cross has been terrific, especially this partnership," Regnante said. "Especially to reach out to our folks on Long Island who are bilingual and have had a language barrier and who aren't in the pipeline for support."

Miriam Garcia, executive director of Brentwood-based Adelante, estimated the money will help more than 500 families at her organization with home repairs related to Sandy, such as rewiring, reinstalling walls that were taken down to remove mold and reinstalling insulation.

"The community is not accustomed to looking for help," Garcia said of the challenges of working with the Hispanic community after Sandy. "They are scared to ask."

Since the Oct. 29 storm, the American Red Cross has received $307 million in donations for Sandy assistance. Of that, $260 million has been spent or committed to those affected by the storm, according to the group.

Alberto Munera, executive director of La Fuerza Unida, based in Glen Cove, said after the storm his organization was able to provide those affected by Sandy with gift cards that were good toward small repairs only. He said the money granted for larger construction repairs will have a "tremendous impact."

The businesses that were lost during Sandy, especially restaurants that remain closed, affected Hispanic families due to loss of jobs, said Margarita Grasing, executive director of Hispanic Brotherhood.

"I think it's wonderful we are fixing boardwalks, but we need to help families first," Grasing said.

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