State to release another $100M in Sandy aid

Theresa Moran, of Island Park, holds a sign Theresa Moran, of Island Park, holds a sign during a meeting at the South Nassau Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Freeport. (Jan. 20, 2014) Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

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State officials said Monday night they planned to release another $100 million in disaster recovery money for up to 6,000 Long Islanders rebuilding their homes from the devastation of superstorm Sandy.

In addition to the money for rebuilding, Jon Kaiman, the governor's special adviser for Long Island Storm Recovery, told about 300 people at the South Nassau Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Freeport that the state also would extend the federal mortgage and rent assistance that is set to expire soon.

The Interim Mortgage Assistance program will pay Sandy victims' rent or mortgages for 20 months after their FEMA housing allowance has been used. It could be retroactive for up to six months. FEMA provided up to $31,900 in mortgage or rental assistance for up to 18 months.

"We don't want people to lose their homes," Kaiman said. "We don't want them to go under."

He said the mortgage and rental assistance would affect hundreds of Long Islanders. "It's an important program."

The additional $100 million in federal rebuilding money practically doubles the $105 million already distributed to about 3,000 families on Long Island, Kaiman said. It would be released within weeks.

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For the hundreds in attendance, the meeting was a chance to voice their concerns with the pace of the Sandy recovery process.

Kaiman said he recognizes the exasperation of people wading through the bureaucracy. "There's a sense of frustration. People have been waiting a long time for this. Their life is in crisis and they need to get back."

But Kevin Reilly, 45, of Long Beach, a fiber optics engineer, was not pleased with Kaiman's presentation. He said he's been "camping out" on the first floor of his home while it is repaired.

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"He's very good with the talking points," Reilly said. "But he does not know the nuts and bolts of the program. It's just broad talking points to pacify the crowd. And you can see, they are not pacified. It's an angry mob. He's not giving us what we need to hear."

Reilly said he is glad NY Rising is releasing the next $100 million shortly, but said the process will be flawed and many people will have to contest the amount they are awarded.

Another flooded-out resident, Ann-Marie Farrell, 52, a mother of two whose house in Freeport was damaged, echoed Reilly's concerns.

"It's just more promises," she said. "It's still the same rhetoric."

She said she still has not been able to return home more than a year later because of the flawed recovery-assistance program. "It's disgusting," she said.

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But Michele Mittleman, a Sandy activist from Freeport whose home was flooded by Sandy, praised Kaiman and NY Rising for implementing the mortgage assistance program. "It's huge," she said.

"I think it is wonderful," she said. "People are in jeopardy of losing their houses and this will give them some additional time to rebuild their homes and get their lives back in shape. It's a very good Band-Aid."

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