Families Are Receiving Help With Rent, Mortgage, Utilities And Appliance Costs
Trenton, NJ – November 19, 2013 – (RealEstateRama) — The Christie Administration today announced that since its launch last month, more than $1 million in Sandy Homeowner and Renter Assistance funding has been disbursed to residents in the state’s hardest hit counties.
The program provides housing stability for individuals and families still recovering financially from the storm by helping to offset living expenses.
“As families grapple with the financial challenges of rebuilding bricks and mortar, many other expenses went unpaid and into arrears,” said Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Jennifer Velez during a visit to Oceans Inc., an agency contracted by the county to distribute Sandy Housing and Renter Assistance funds. “This program provides financial relief for practical expenses in a real and effective way.”
To date, Oceans Inc. has approved over 400 households and dispersed nearly $600,000 in Sandy Homeowner and Renter Assistance funds. The program, funded through a $57 million federal Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), is helping homeowners like Estelle, a hairdresser who lives in Little Egg Harbor. Her home is still undergoing repairs after destruction from Sandy. Because she has to pay both rent and mortgage payments, she struggles to make the bills and has slipped into arrears with both. The SHRAP program paid over $5,000 in back mortgage and past gas and electric bills.
“It has been such a struggle jumping through the hoops necessary to get FEMA funding and a settlement from my insurance company,” said Estelle. “This process was so easy compared to everything else we’ve been through. Finally, I feel like I can breathe; it feels good to have some sanity back.”
Also eligible for the program are individuals or families who need to replace essential household items that were not covered by their insurance or other available assistance programs. Residents who have returned to their rebuilt home but lack essential items such as a refrigerator or bed may also be eligible for assistance under this program.
The Sandy Homeowner and Renter Assistance Program provides up to six months of housing and related assistance and is capped at $15,000 in direct vendor payments and/or vouchers per household.
Applications for assistance are being accepted at designated agencies in every county. In order to be eligible for the program, an individual or family unit must:
Have a financial distress directly related to housing which is a direct result of Superstorm Sandy;
Be a U.S. citizen or eligible alien;
Not currently be receiving Work First New Jersey (WFNJ) benefits or be eligible for WFNJ/SSI Emergency Assistance; and
Be legally or blood-related. (If two unrelated families/individuals are sharing a home/apartment, each can apply separately.
Prior to providing services, all eligibility factors must be verified. The primary method of verifying identity/residency is a NJ Driver’s License; however, verifications also may include:
A state-issued photo ID;
A mortgage statement;
A lease agreement;
A utility bill;
An affidavit or statement regarding current living arrangements;
Homeowner’s Insurance documents; or
Proof of FEMA registration (if applicable).
SSBG funding is crucial to preserving the social services safety net in the areas most impacted by Superstorm Sandy. In the months and years to come, these services will be essential to rebuilding and restoring residents’ very basic needs in storm recovery.
More stories like Estelle’s are included below:
Carl and his fiancé had a lease/purchase arrangement on their home in Beach Haven West when Sandy hit. More than five feet of water surged into the house and it is uninhabitable. The couple has spent the last year working through FEMA and insurance issues to begin repairs. To complicate matters further, the couple worked from a home office. With the loss of the house, their business also was lost. Since Sandy, they have been living in a rental, picking up odd jobs and struggling to pay bills. The SHRAP program covered $12,244 in back rent for this Beach Haven West couple.
Christine of Lanoka Harbor had 22 inches of water in the house she rented for 14 years. She and her two sons lost everything and the house is uninhabitable. FEMA helped, but what Christine received didn’t cover the cost of replacing the contents of her home and Christine didn’t have renter’s insurance. Now, her family is renting in Waretown, still struggling to replace what they lost, while trying to pay the rent. She received a rent payment of $1,275 from the SHRAP program.
Michael, a Lavallette resident lost his home of 25 years to Superstorm Sandy. Renting now in Toms River, he is waiting for his house to be demolished and rebuilt. Even with assistance from FEMA and his flood insurance, it is not easy to handle the mortgage and taxes on his uninhabitable home, while paying rent for his temporary housing, and working towards rebuilding his house. The SHRAP program assisted with $1,750 toward housing expenses.