Deadline to seek post-Sandy aid extended

Village of Lindenhurst workers use heavy machinery to Village of Lindenhurst workers use heavy machinery to remove debris left over from superstorm Sandy. (Nov. 10, 2012) Photo Credit: Ed Betz

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Long Islanders have received more than $700 million in federal aid grants and low-interest loans since superstorm Sandy, as the state last night announced a month's extension for people seeking to register for each.

Also given a reprieve were 1,900 New York households whose stays in hotels or motels are funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. They were set to have to check out Sunday, but now have 14 more days -- through Feb. 9 -- to find other accommodations.

Mike Byrne, in charge of FEMA's Sandy response in New York, said the agency will not "shut the door on people still in need." In the state's affected counties, 200 to 300 families continue to register daily for help, he said. "Our goal is to get assistance to as many as possible," Byrne said.

About 37,000 households in Nassau and slightly more than 9,000 in Suffolk have received federal housing assistance grants, totaling $343.5 million, from FEMA.

Separately, 4,701 homeowners and renters have been awarded another $365.9 million in low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration to help pay for home repairs.

The extension gives people until Feb. 27 to register with FEMA and apply to the SBA. The deadline had been Monday.

The grant money, which does not have to be repaid, is allocated to those who suffered property damage and are uninsured or underinsured. It can be used for rental assistance, home repairs and other needs, such as replacing personal property damaged in the storm, vehicle repairs or storm-related medical expenses. The maximum each homeowner can receive is $31,900.

Statewide, 111,741 households have received $865.5 million in housing aid so far, according to FEMA.

Nearly three months after Sandy struck, slightly more than 800 households in Nassau and Suffolk are staying in FEMA-funded hotels or motels. To remain eligible, individuals must check in with FEMA by Jan. 26.

Officials continued to urge people to register for FEMA aid and apply for SBA loans even if they are unsure of eligibility.

"Even if you have insurance, you may later be denied insurance for some reason and therefore qualify for FEMA grant money," FEMA spokesman John Mills said.

Anyone receiving a loan application from the SBA should fill it out and return it, Mills said, because those who are denied SBA loans are automatically referred back to FEMA, with the potential for an increase in their FEMA grant money.

Households in Nassau -- the worst-affected county in the state -- have received just over 41 percent of all SBA loans approved to New York homeowners, the latest figures show.

As of Thursday, the agency had received 11,955 loan applications from Nassau homeowners, approving 3,493 for a total of $269,767,300, spokesman Richard Daigle said. In Suffolk, 1,208 loans totaling $96,134,800 have been approved out of 3,952 homeowner applications. More than $657.5 million has been approved in loans to 9,764 homeowners across the state.

The amount of FEMA housing aid approved to more than 46,000 Long Island households eclipses the total approved to households in all of New Jersey. With $342 million approved to about 57,000 New Jersey households, the average payment to a Long Island household is about $1,500 more than the average aid payment to an affected New Jersey household.

The second-worst affected New York county is Queens, where $220 million in housing aid has gone to about 24,000 households.

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