CBS Local: On 6th Anniversary Of Superstorm Sandy, NJ Gov. Phil Murphy Announces Loan Fund To Help Rebuild
UNION BEACH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Monday marks the sixth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy.
The state of New Jersey has announced new help for families whose homes are still uninhabitable.
Sandy caused tens of billions of dollars in damage, and many people are still trying to rebuild.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy told some Sandy survivors that the state is starting a zero interest, forgivable loan fund for certain homeowners.
One homeowner said he was cheated by his insurance company.
“What should have been a simple process of filing for my insurance claim that I paid premiums for and getting the money to rebuild my home has turned into a never-ending nightmare that has consumed my life,” said Toms River resident Doug Quinn.
“We can not stop until every family in every impacted community is once again able to walk into the doors of their homes,” Murphy said.
Murphy says statewide there are about 1,200 families who remain out of their homes after Sandy.
News 12 New Jersey - New Jersey marks $50M for Sandy victims still not home yet
UNION BEACH - On the sixth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, the Murphy administration is offering help to the more than 1,200 families who lack the funds to return home, and hundreds of others who face clawbacks of part of their grant money. Both issues have been reported extensively by Kane In Your Corner over the past few years, including in a two-part investigation last week.
Speaking at a sixth anniversary event in Union Beach, Murphy announced the creation of what he calls “a zero-interest uncapped forgivable loan fund, through which qualified homeowners who have already maxed out their $150,000 grant awards can seek the additional funds needed to finish the work on their homes.” Murphy says the program, which still must be approved by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, will be funded with a portion of New Jersey’s $1.2 billion in unspent federal Sandy assistance.
The governor also promised an end to new clawback requests, and said the state will work with families who have already received clawbacks.
Amanda Devecka-Rinear of the New Jersey Organizing Project applauds the program. “These have been the two issues we’ve heard the most from our members and from our community,” she says. “People are stuck, they can’t get home without extra funding, and people are terrified about clawbacks. So seeing some action on those two things means we have a path forward for the next year that we didn’t’ have before.”
For Jim and Carol Ferraioli of Middletown, the new zero-interest loan program could mean being able to fully replace their Middletown house, which has been rotting away on temporarily pilings, the result of a fraudulent contractor who started a house-lifting project and never finished. The Ferraiolis had been resigned to building a smaller house because of lack of funding but now believe it might be possible to replace what they lost.
“We really do think this is going to happen,” Carol Ferraioli says, “because Gov. Murphy was at our house last year in our driveway in the pouring rain. So he saw with his own eyes the devastation.”
Doug Quinn of Toms River is also hopeful the program will allow his family to return home after six years. But Quinn notes that after all this time, some of the damage he suffered can never be fixed.
“My daughter was 15 years old (when Sandy hit), she had just started her sophomore year in high school.” Quinn says. “She’s a 21-year-old grown woman, out of state now. And I can never get that time back.”
By Dino Flammia - 101.5 - 6 YEARS LATER, SANDY VICTIMS WANT TO FINALLY ‘CROSS THE FINISH LINE’
Of the nearly 8,000 New Jersey families that qualified for federal funds to help rebuild, rehabilitate or elevate their homes after Superstorm Sandy, 19 percent still haven't finished their projects or received the green light to move back in.
"It's pretty distressing," said Atlantic City resident Sharon Zappia, who travels daily from her rental home to her actual home that was flooded by 28 inches of water and sewage in late October 2012.
Zippia received $150,000 from the state's Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation, and Mitigation (RREM) Program, but the actual cost of getting her home back into livable shape is more than double that.
"I now stand about $50,000 short of completing the project," Zappia said. "I see the home possibly going back into foreclosure."
Zappia said she's one of three homes on her block that are "incomplete."
These folks, and many others, are looking for what they're calling "cross the finish line" funds to help them finally put Sandy in the rear-view mirror. And they think a good chunk of this financial help can come from about $1.2 billion in Sandy recovery funding the state still has on hand.
"If six years later we know people are struggling, I'm sure we can take a look at $1.2 billion and find out where to set aside, say, 20 or 30 million more to help families — that seems so doable," said Amanda Devecka-Rinear, director of the New Jersey Organizing Project, a grassroots organization formed four years ago by Sandy survivors.
Devecka-Rinear said some New Jersey residents affected by Sandy have not even started the tear-down and repair process on their home. Others are dealing with a variety of obstacles, such as contractor fraud or "clawbacks" by the federal government to recoup some of the grant money it had distributed.
And next summer, Devecka-Rinear said, even more families will feel lost. That's when a mortgage forbearance program, which suspended payments for Sandy victims, is scheduled to end.
"Many families that we work with are telling us that they're going to need more time," she said.
By MICHELLE BRUNETTI POST - Press of AC - Group still working to help Hurricane Sandy survivors cross finish line
STAFFORD TOWNSHIP — Almost six years after Hurricane Sandy struck New Jersey, a group that advocates for flood survivors’ rights held its first convention, showing there is still much work to be done in the historic storm’s aftermath.
The New Jersey Organizing Project brought survivors together with representatives of government programs, politicians and others to talk about helping state residents finish projects, fight clawbacks of government assistance funds and keep health insurance coverage.
The convention was held Oct. 13 at the Ocean Acres Community Center in Manahawkin.
Oct. 29 will be the sixth anniversary of Sandy, and 19 percent of the 7,690 families that qualified for Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation and Low-to-Moderate Income grants still haven’t finished their projects, said NJOP Executive Director Amanda Devecka-Rinear.
The grants were funded by more than $4 billion from the federal government and administered by the state Department of Community Affairs.
A large number of those who got assistance are being asked to pay back an amount the government has decided was overpaid. Called “clawbacks,” the demands for repayment of tens of thousands of dollars are putting additional stresses on families that have already been pushed to their limits, said Jody Stewart, of the Mystic Island section of Little Egg Harbor Township.
“I had 42 inches of water in my home,” Stewart said, who used grant money to repair and raise her home.
“Then we struggled with a clawback. The government wanted $20,000 back, even though we never got enough money.”
Luckily it turned out the government’s paperwork was wrong, Stewart said. She did not owe any money after all. But it was stressful fighting it for a while, she said.
Sandy survivors started the New Jersey Organizing Project to better advocate for rental assistance, disaster aid and to help people who were running into roadblocks.
It is still focused on making sure families can get home and hang on until they make it home, said Devecka-Rinear.
But the group has added two big issues onto its plate, she said. It is working for affordable health care — in particular expanding access to treatment for those with opioid addiction — and for reform of disaster recovery systems so they work better for families and prepare communities for future flooding and storms.
Many people affected by Sandy suffered physical or mental health issues in the years that followed, Devecka-Rinear said.
Nancy Caira, of Waretown in Ocean Township, said her husband had a heart attack soon after Sandy, putting him out of work and complicating their ability to help pay to raise their home 13 feet. Even though they have a RREM grant, they ran into many complications and still haven’t started the work, she said.
Caira spoke at a workshop on storm recovery and preparing for future storms, along with the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Shana Udvardy, one of the authors of “Underwater: Rising Seas, Coastal Floods and the Implications for U.S. Coastal Real Estate,” and Jason Tuber, a senior adviser to Sen. Robert Menendez. Tuber talked about reforms Menendez, D-N.J., is seeking through legislation for the National Flood Insurance Program.
As of Sept 28, Devecka-Rinear said, the state’s figures show there is about $1.2 billion in unspent Sandy recovery funding, some of which could be redirected to better aid families.
By Victoria Ford - Stafford Municipal Candidates Publicly Introduce Themselves at Ocean Acres Community Center
The Ocean Acres Civic Association hosted a candidates night on Tuesday, Oct. 9, that packed the Ocean Acres Community Center. The format was a straightforward series of three-minute speeches from each candidate, introducing who they are and what they believe in. No questions were taken from the public. A coin toss gave the Democrats the floor first.
Brian White is a criminal defense attorney who cares deeply about the opioid crisis. He said he wants to solve the underlying addiction problem by partnering with citizens. The Blue HART (Heroin Addiction Response Team) program and the On Point program (for mental health assistance) are two ways the Stafford Police Department already helps. Additionally, he would like to beef up neighborhood watch efforts and drug education. “We need to think outside the box,” he said, to win the war on drugs and overdoses in Stafford. He feels his team is “a great group of people, doing this for the right reasons.”
Joanne Sitek has been a resident of Beach Haven West for over 20 years. She retired to the shore after a long, rewarding career in teaching and counseling. She was brought up to help people, she said, which is what motivated her to run for town council previously and serve as liaison to the recreation department, school system and senior citizens. She described the Focus on Stafford team as service-oriented and diverse in terms of age and gender. One of her concerns is finding solutions for the vacant storefronts in town.
Nicole Downs is a partner in a law firm and has a lot of experience in municipal law. She’s lived in town 15 years, has four children, volunteers as a soccer and cheerleading coach and sits on the boards of the American Cancer Society and Ronald McDonald House. She’s interested in working on ordinances to address the issue of abandoned and foreclosed houses, one of which would require bank registration of foreclosures, which would generate revenue and help improve communication between property owners and the town. “I’ve seen the positive effects in other towns, and I want to bring that experience to Stafford,” she said.
Chris Marzullo is a technologist (computer systems engineer) who has lived all over the world and chose to put down roots in Stafford for the quality of life and services available. As a new resident, he is enthusiastic about life and eager to dive into some complex issues. For one thing, he wants to dissect the town’s technology contracts and introduce the “My Stafford” smartphone app as a way to report potholes, downed power lines, flooding, etc.
Joe Mangino has lived in town since the mid-’90s. He is a small business owner, a wedding officiant, an oyster shell recycling program volunteer, president of the New Jersey Organizing Project, a member of the Stafford Township Board of Education, and sports coach. “As you can see, my community matters to me,” he said. He intends to govern in a manner that is both fiscally responsible and forward-thinking. “I’ve always put issues and people above party politics,” he said.
Leading off the Conservatives’ introductions was Tony Guariglia, a doctor of pediatric emergency medicine at Southern Ocean Medical Center. He has four children, one with special needs. When he was interviewing at different hospitals, he said, he chose to make Stafford his home because SOMC was the one place where every person he encountered greeted him warmly.
In terms of his priorities for the town, he said first responders are at the top. “The opioid crisis – it’s bad,” he said. Emergency personnel deserve adequate funding for equipment. He, too, believes drug education is the key to solving the problem.
Mike Pfancook is a 43-year resident of the town, with three children. He’s an avid outdoorsman, hunter, fisherman and golfer, an NRA-certified handgun instructor, a union electrical worker, and a volunteer with Boy Scouts and the Toy Run Foundation. He entered politics in 2009 when the council started laying off police, he said. “I love my country; I love my president.” He was prompted to run for office because “it’s time to be a voice and an ear for residents.”
George Williams is “fed up with politicians’ unkept promises.” The financial adviser and member of the Ocean County Bowlers Association Hall of Fame has lived in town 11 years and wants to be “a public servant, not a politician.” He believes the government should be built on principles of respect and rational thought, more transparent and less wasteful. He believes in personal responsibility, the Constitution and the “MAGA” mindset.
Bob Henken-Siefken is a resident of 19 years, a sports coach, a motorcycle enthusiast, a member of Bikers for Trump, a NASCAR fan and father of four who wants to “give a voice back to the community.” He “won’t let anyone be marginalized.”
Paul Krier moved to Stafford in 1997 and has two children with his wife, Ocean Acres Civic Association President Kate Krier. He served as a councilman from 2013 to 2015. The best part of that experience, he said, was working with the residents. He wanted the audience to know: “I’m here to represent you.”
Greg Myhre, a member of the Ocean County Republican Club’s screening committee, believes “working together is the best way to achieve goals.” He supports every Republican on the ballot, including the POTUS. “Now is not the time,” he said, “to experiment with liberal Democrat policies on any level.”
Not in attendance were Democrats Kevin Teeple and Denise Pobicki and Republican Tom Steadman. After the formal introductions, audience members (all 120 or so) lingered to enjoy refreshments and ask questions and converse with the candidates directly.
Among the crowd, Bea Michelson, age 102 and a lifelong Democrat, said this year she decided to change parties and vote Republican for the first time ever. Her reason? The Democratic party just isn’t what it used to be, she said, and “it’s time to change.” She does not approve of what she sees as a slide toward socialism. She believes in the original words of the U.S. Constitution. For her, watching Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate Committee hearings evoked her sympathy, from a moral perspective. “It was just terrible, how they treated that man,” she said.
With regard to the campaign, Myhre said he feels optimistic. His impression is residents like his team’s message and non-aggressive agenda.
Asked if he plans to fire Township Administrator James Moran, Myhre said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on personnel issues but that “we’d have a lot to talk to him about.”
“I have read that Mr. Moran had filed for retirement, and I would accept his retirement,” Myhre said. (Moran, in a separate previous conversation, had dismissed the rumor that he plans to retire.)
The Beach Haven West Civic Association will host another meet-the-candidates event on Friday, Oct. 19, at 7 p.m., at the Bay Avenue Community Center.
— Victoria Ford
By Pat Sharkey - TapInto.net - Stafford Mayor Spodofora Quits Republican Club and Endorses Democrat Joe Mangino for Mayor
STAFFORD - Stafford Township Mayor John Spodofora resigned this past week as a member of the Township Republican Club and he has endorsed Democratic mayoral candidate Joe Mangino.
Mangino represents the Focus on Stafford Democratic slate of candidates.
The Regular Republican team of candidates led by Spodofora included a slate with most of the town’s current council members.
They were defeated by the "Republican Conservatives" in June.
Greg Myhre is the mayoral candidate and leader of that team. Myhre will compete against Democratic candidate Joe Mangino next month.
In his resignation to the Stafford Regular Republican Club he wrote to Republican Club President Richard Carlson:
"I have come to realize after much thought, that staying neutral would not be fair to either myself or the people of Stafford Township. The act of staying neutral indicates that as a member of the Stafford Regular Republican Club I am supporting the local Republican candidates…. I simply cannot stay neutral nor can I belong to a club that supports these candidates. It pains me to resign from the club after over 30 years, however I feel it would not be fair to either myself or the Club to remain a member.
I remain proud of the accomplishments I have been part of while in office, I am proud of the residents of Stafford who always volunteer to help others, this is truly a great community, I love the town and the people who call Stafford home. I have a saying I always use "having knowledge leads to responsibility, and responsibility requires action."
Simply put, based on my knowledge I feel responsible to Stafford to not stay neutral on this election, or give the impression that I support these local Republican candidates by remaining a member of the Republican club.
Some will try to say this is simply sour grapes for losing the primary election. I can assure there are no sour grapes, this is simply me doing what I feel is right.
In a second letter addressed to the Stafford community, Spodofora shares some detail of his support of Mangino. Spodofora wrote:
As many of you know I lost the Republican Primary in Stafford by a very slim margin. However, I have a strong commitment and love for Stafford Township. This is the place where I grew up and a community that I have been proud to serve over the past 30 plus years. I want Stafford to continue to be the great community that it is and has a quality of life second to none, and for that reason I am writing to endorse Joe Mangino to be the next Mayor of Stafford Township. I won’t be on the ballot for re-election in November, but Joe will be, and I plan to vote for him. I hope all of you who have supported me in the past will put party lines aside and vote for the best person for Stafford - Joe Mangino.
Together as a community we have faced many challenges, perhaps none as serious as Superstorm Sandy, one of the first citizens to step up to help the thousands of people in despair who lost so much was Joe.
Although Joe’s own home was severely damaged by the Storm, he put his own needs aside to help form a group of volunteers to help those in need, with hammer in hand he and his volunteers moved through the community, cleaning up debris, having materials donated, and helping those in need to rebuild. It has been said that “adversity does not build character, it reveals it”, and Joe is a prime example of demonstrating good character, and a commitment toward the people of Stafford. I worked closely with Joe and his team, his desire to help others above himself continues today, he is the right person to move Stafford forward. Unlike his opponents Joe is not part of any political machine and will always put the people and needs of Stafford first. For these reasons I am endorsing Joe Mangino, a man with a long record of service to Stafford.
I am proud of my administration’s accomplishments in many areas, including the growth of our youth recreation leagues, our efforts to upgrade our parks, preserve our environment, and protect our senior communities. To provide these services while keeping taxes stable has been my greatest accomplishment.
I offered to meet with both Mayoral candidates to bring them up to speed with the complex issues of running a Town. Only Joe met with me and during that meeting he continued to impress me as someone who has the management and leadership skills and is running for office for all the right reasons. I am confident he will always put the needs of Stafford first.
Some people may be surprised that as a lifelong Republican, I am endorsing a Democrat. But party labels have never mattered to me on the local level. I want the best person for our town, and this year, Joe is the best candidate for Mayor. His focus is not on partisan or national issues, but on what we need here in Stafford.
Joe is deeply involved in our town in many areas. He started a recreation sports league for girls’ field hockey, owns his own small business here in town and is well known for his volunteer activities. As the President of New Jersey Organizing Project, he helped Sandy victims with rental assistance, foreclosure protections, and insurance issues. It did not surprise me that Joe was the 2013 Martin Truex Jr. Humanitarian of the Year.
I would be honored to work with Joe, and together, continue our service to Stafford."
Changes are coming to Stafford Township. Residents will have the opportunity to vote in the election on Tuesday, November 6.
By Alison Arne - Voice of the People, Oct. 3, 2018: Glad to get Medicaid
Before I became a mom, I worked two jobs to cover student loans. I didn’t worry about not having health insurance, even after a $4,000 emergency room bill. Motherhood changed that. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, I qualified under the expansion of Medicaid.
In a perfect world my daughter would only need well visits. In the real world she has already had one eye surgery. I remember spending weeks terrified of the anesthesia, the cutting of her eye muscles. She never saw that fear. I was able to suppress my fears because I didn’t worry about it being a financial burden I couldn’t handle. No patient or loved one should have to worry about high costs during a medical crisis, yet millions of households are forced to every day.
When I hear about possible ACA repeal, block grants and privatization, I worry for my family and the millions of other families who need quality, affordable care. Through the New Jersey Organizing Project, I learned that collectively we can protect what matters to us from our coastline to our medical coverage. The project will celebrate its victories at its first convention in October.
We're South Jersey and the Shore standing together for community solutions.