Assessment crews visit Sandy-ravaged homes
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George and Lori King feel a little more optimistic, now that the first fixes to their flood-ravaged home are on the way.
The Lindenhurst couple have been living without heat or hot water in their South Ninth Street split-level home since superstorm Sandy struck Oct. 29, drowning the downstairs in saltwater.
While the power and gas are back on, their furnace and hot water tank were destroyed. The couple "farmed out" an adult daughter and Lori King's mother to friends and relatives, and stayed in their home, stripping flood-soaked walls down to the studs.
They've been showering and doing laundry elsewhere, doing their best to stay warm with a pair of small heaters they shift from room to room.
Friday morning, they got a sorely needed lift when an assessment crew -- a carpenter, plumber and electrician -- arrived as part of a new assistance program.
Sheltering Temporary Essential Power, or STEP, provides no-cost, quick-fix repairs that allow homeowners and renters to remain safely in their homes -- or return to them -- during the often-lengthy rebuilding process.
"They're going to send another crew. There's no exact date, but I'm optimistic by the end of next week we'll have a 20-gallon hot water tank, three to four baseboard heaters and a tarp on the roof," said George King, 64, a retired electrician.
"It's a big boost. It feels like a little light at the end of the tunnel," he said. "We'll be able to at least get through part of winter that way."
The Kings' home was one of more than 160 assessed in Suffolk County Friday as part the STEP program -- a joint effort of Nassau, Suffolk and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The cost to the counties will be largely reimbursed by FEMA and the state.
Suffolk Labor Department Commissioner Sammy Chu said STEP teams kicked off the program by visiting about 1,000 residences Friday. "Eligible homeowners who have reached out have either been assessed or will be assessed by the end of this weekend," he said.
FEMA community relations workers canvassed storm-impacted areas with fliers earlier in the week. Suffolk has set up a 211 phone number for residents to sign up for the program.
In Nassau, almost 4,000 homes had been assessed late Friday, ending the program's first week there, Deputy County Executive Rob Walker said. Of those, about 1,200 were deemed eligible for STEP, with the first repairs expected to start this weekend.
Severely damaged homes are ineligible.
"Some of the damage is so significant, there's no quick fix," Walker said.
About 125 homeowners called Nassau's toll-free number -- 888-684-4267 -- Friday to request an assessment.
Long Island now accounts for more than 40 percent of FEMA aid approved for New York State. As of Friday, more than $217 million in housing assistance grants had been approved for 30,700 homeowners and renters in Nassau; $44 million for 6,600 households in Suffolk, the agency said.
Queens households will receive $165 million in housing aid, with $129 million going to Brooklyn and $66 million to Staten Island.
The New York Department of Financial Services will have representatives at four Long Island locations, offering Sandy-related help to homeowners, renters and business owners.
Sunday -- noon to 5 p.m., Bellmore Public Library, 2288 Bedford Ave.
Monday -- 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Islip Town Hall Annex, 401 Main St.
The department's storm hotline (800)339-1759 operates 24 hours a day. Insurance information is also available online at dfs.ny.gov.