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LI Sandy victims express frustration over NY Rising

From left, Anna D'Amaro of Island Park holds

From left, Anna D'Amaro of Island Park holds a sign beside Nassau County Legis. Dave Denenberg and Patricia Maher, Democratic candidate for the 2nd Congressional District, during a press conference on Sandy relief at Venetian Shores Park in Lindenhurst Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014. Credit: Barry Sloan

Some superstorm Sandy victims waiting months for help from NY Rising voiced their frustration over the cumbersome, paperwork-laden process Saturday.

"People are just disheartened," said Nancy Scoppa, whose request for mortgage assistance was filed in March but is still pending.

Scoppa, who rents a Levittown apartment, said she needs help paying the mortgage on her flood-damaged, vacant Babylon home on the Great South Bay.

Scoppa and a handful of residents with similar stories spoke at Venetian Shores Park in Lindenhurst.

NY Rising is the temporary state agency charged with disbursing federal disaster funds needed to help people recover from the October 2012 storm.

Spokeswoman Barbara Brancaccio defended the program Saturday, saying it has doled out more than $450 million to more than 8,600 residents.

"We're working every day to ensure that homeowners get money as quickly as possible and provide them with as many options to recover from superstorm Sandy," she said.

The news conference was organized by Democratic congressional candidate Patrica Maher, who is challenging Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford).

Many Sandy victims, she said, "are still out of their house and this is two years later."

Scoppa, 65, has been approved for $60,000 by NY Rising to elevate her home. She's strapped paying rent, a mortgage and flood insurance, she said.

She said the agency contacted her in August about the mortgage assistance application, requesting a copy of her apartment lease. Scoppa said she had submitted the lease in April.

Jennifer Magliano, 42, of Long Beach, said she and her husband accepted a federal loan to rebuild their home after being assured by NY Rising in June 2013 that they would later be eligible for a grant.

Residents who took out the low-interest loans later discovered they were only eligible for minimal or no NY Rising grants, officials have said. The federal Stafford Act prohibits "duplication of benefits," which prevents residents getting overlapping assistance from multiple sources for a single disaster.

"NY Rising gave us false information that day," Magliano said. "We were misled into taking the loan -- a debt we should never had taken on in our position."

Brancaccio said the program works with homeowners on the federal guidelines. "New York has been clear that drawing down funds from the SBA is a duplication of benefits, and those funds will be deducted from the total award amount," she said.

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