News 12 New Jersey - KIYC: Sandy victims still waiting for 'clawback' resolutions
CHADWICK BEACH -Six years after Superstorm Sandy, hundreds of New Jersey families are still waiting for some sort of resolution to the "clawbacks" which have them owing tens of thousands of dollars in grant money back to the government.
Maryann Ryan used $100,000 in grant money to rebuild her two bedroom bungalow in Chadwick Beach, which was damaged during Sandy. But the state now says it overpaid her by about $38,000 and it wants that money back.
"I would have to pay $1,000 a month until the $38,000 was paid up," Ryan says. "Now, I am a woman of certain income and a thousand a month is ridiculous. They thought it was such a great deal because there was no interest. Well, whoop-de-doo."
Ryan is appealing, with the assistance of the New Jersey Organizing Project. The group says homeowners across the Jersey Shore are desperate for some sort of clarity from the Murphy administration on how clawbacks will be handled.
"We have folks who have money due in the summer, you know, $25-30-35,000, and they don't have it," says NJOP Executive Director Amanda Devecka Rinear.
Ryan isn't alone. Fred and Marjorie Schaffer, of Little Egg Harbor, replaced their home with the help of grant money, but were told they owe nearly $70,000 in grant money. The Schaffers also took out a Small Business Administration Loan which, they found out later, is considered a "duplication of benefits" under FEMA rules. Pat Weber, of Union Beach, faces a similar clawback because she received $30,000 in supplemental flood insurance.
New Jersey has $1.2 billion in unspent federal Sandy funds, and the NJOP has been lobbying the Murphy administration to use some of it to help clawback victims, as well as homeowners who lack the funding to complete construction so they can return home. The clawbacks may prove to be more challenging, since both the funding and the clawback rules come from FEMA.
"These are people who put everything in rebuilding and holding on, people on fixed incomes, people with 2-3 jobs, we have to do something," Devecka-Rinear says.
6 Years After Sandy, Booker, Murphy, Pallone Praise Menendez, Celebrate Success and Urge Congress to Pass Menendez’s Flood Insurance Reform Bill
InsuranceNews.net - 6 Years After Sandy, Booker, Murphy, Pallone Praise Menendez, Celebrate Success and Urge Congress to Pass Menendez’s Flood Insurance Reform Bill
UNION BEACH, New Jersey, Oct. 29 -- The office of Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, issued the following news release:
U.S. Senators Bob Menendez, Chair of the Sandy Task Force, and Cory Booker, Governor Phil Murphy, and U.S. Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.-06) today marked the six-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy battering New Jersey. The lawmakers met with Sandy survivors and advocacy groups to celebrate the progress made, and to urge Congress to pass comprehensive, bipartisan legislation known as the Sustainable, Affordable, Fair, and Efficient National Flood Insurance Program (SAFE NFIP) (https://www.menendez.senate.gov/news-and-events/press/menendez-flood-insurance-reform-bill-turns-lessons-of-sandy-into-action) authored by Sen. Menendez. The bill, which was co-sponsored by Sen. Booker and introduced in the House by Rep. Pallone, would remedy the problems of the current flood insurance program that caused so many Sandy survivors to suffer in the wake of the storm.
"When right wing Republicans blocked relief funding, I fought back and brought our region $60 billion to rebuild. When flood insurance premiums were about to spike, I passed a law stopping them, saving homeowners $50 million. When survivors faced frustrating delays from the Christie Administration, I pushed for changes to their botched system so homeowners could get assistance and rebuild quicker," said Sen. Menendez. "And when survivors came to me with horror stories of being lowballed by their insurance company, I led a Senate investigation that uncovered systemic fraud and abuse, and got homeowners an additional $260 million they were entitled to."
"I could not be more thankful that now we have a productive partner in the Governor's office who Senator Booker and I are proud to work and alongside to reallocate federal Sandy dollars to homeowners who still need help getting back in their home," Sen. Menendez added.
"While we have made progress in the six years since Superstorm Sandy made landfall in New Jersey, we still have more work to do," said Sen. Booker. "We already know that NFIP reforms are needed to protect homeowners in New Jersey and across our nation from the waste and mismanagement we witnessed following Sandy's devastation. That's why I continue to work closely with Senator Menendez who has led the fight for common sense, bipartisan legislation to help extend coverage to those who need it most while investing in resiliency and mitigation efforts that will help protect New Jersey families from future disasters."
Sen. Booker recounted a time when he and Sen. Menendez ran into a fellow Democratic senator who wanted to use Sandy funds for their own state's natural disaster. Sen. Booker said he saw Sen. Menendez "go straight New Jersey on this guy" to ensure "not one penny be taken away from the State of New Jersey (https://youtu.be/rDZJE_hnMLY?t=245)." (Minute 4:05)
"When I look to the future of this state, we need Bob Menendez," said Sen. Booker.
Announcing changes to the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation, and Mitigation (RREM) Program and the Low-to-Moderate Income (LMI) Homeowner Rebuilding Program, Gov. Murphy said, "With these programs, our objective is to find a path forward for the homeowners who have not finished rebuilding and who find themselves stuck because they don't have the financial means to move ahead. We want to work with people who are struggling financially to determine what they can realistically contribute, and we want to get them across the finish line so they can return home and get some much-overdue normalcy in their lives."
"Six years ago, when Superstorm Sandy hit our coast, people lost their lives, homes and businesses were destroyed, and local infrastructure was devastated," said Rep. Pallone. "I will never forget my first moments on the ground touring the damage Sandy wrought in New Jersey - like the homes that were battered to the ground in Union Beach and the whole business section on Bay Avenue in Highlands that was under water."
"I knew then that I needed to begin the hard work to bring the necessary support and resources to our state to help New Jersey rebuild, and that is why I fought hard in Congress to pass the Sandy relief package and to secure the aid needed to help victims put their businesses, homes and lives back together. I will continue to work with Senator Menendez and Governor Murphy to pass food insurance reform and whatever is necessary to assist the victims of Sandy and prepare for the next storm," Rep. Pallone added.
Sen. Menendez and Rep. Pallone first held a roundtable discussion at an Elks Lodge in Belford, NJ with Sandy survivors and representatives from New Jersey Organizing Project (NJOP), an advocacy group formed by Superstorm Sandy Survivors.
"Many people don't even realize their homeowners insurance doesn't cover flooding until they have a flood and find out they are on their own. At a time when more people need flood insurance it is getting too expensive. We can't have families priced out of protection. The SAFE NFIP act works to make flood insurance more affordable, but even more than that it prioritizes making mitigation funding available before a disaster. That means families can be safer, their flood insurance costs go way down, and every dollar spent on mitigation saves taxpayers six dollars after a disaster. But above all, prioritizing mitigation would save families the kind of heartache all of us went through and are still going through because of Sandy," said Krista Sperber, New Jersey Organizing Project member and Belmar resident.
The Sandy survivors at the roundtable directly benefited from Sen. Menendez's efforts to get them what they deserved after he discovered widespread lowballing on their flood insurance claims. The Senator successfully pressed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to reopen all Sandy claims, intimating a review process that led to policyholders getting an additional $300 million to rebuild their homes (http://www.menendez.senate.gov/news-and-events/press/menendez-applauds-hud-fema-decisions-to-give-sandy-victims-a-break-on-claims-review). SAFE NFIP would ensure survivors of devastating flooding never go through what Sandy survivors experienced after the storm.
The SAFE NFIP Act would extend the federal flood insurance program for six years while instituting a series of sweeping reforms. The bill authorizes significant investment in mitigation and resiliency efforts to reduce flood risk, while addressing critical problems that arose following Superstorm Sandy and other disasters, namely: unsustainability, low participation rates, inaccurate flood maps, an indifference to the benefits of flood control infrastructure, agency mismanagement, unsustainable debt service costs and contractor profiteering.
The Sustainable, Affordable, Fair, and Efficient (SAFE)
NFIP Reauthorization Act of 2017
Long-Term Certainty. Reauthorizes the NFIP for six years, providing certainty for communities.
No Exorbitant Rate Hikes. Ends runaway premium hikes by capping annual increases to 10 percent. Currently, premiums increase by up to 25 percent every year, depressing property values, creating affordability challenges, and discouraging participation in the program.
Cuts Wasteful Expenses to Pay for Investments. Freezes interest payments and establishes new controls for private insurance company compensation in order to reinvest in proactive mitigation efforts and affordability measures, including low-interest loans for homeowners' mitigation projects and affordability vouchers.
Strong Investments in Mitigation. Provides robust funding levels for large-scale, communitywide mitigation efforts, and mitigation assistance programs, which have a 4:1 return on investment and are the most effective way to reduce flood risk.
Expanded Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) Coverage. Increases the maximum limit for ICC coverage to better reflect the costs of mitigation projects and expands eligibility in order to encourage more proactive mitigation before natural disasters strike.
LiDAR Mapping. Authorizes funding for Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology for more accurate mapping of flood risk across the country, reducing confusion and generating better data.
Oversight of Write Your Own (WYO) Companies. Caps compensation for WYO companies to 22.4 percent of written premiums, creates new oversight measures for insurance companies and vendors, and provides FEMA with greater authority to terminate contractors that have a track record of abuse.
Claims and Appeals Process Reforms Based on Lessons from Sandy. Fundamentally reforms the claims process based on lessons learned after Superstorm Sandy and other disasters, leveling the playing field for policyholders during appeals and litigation by holding FEMA to strict deadlines for payments to homeowners, banning aggressive legal tactics that prevent homeowners from filing legitimate claims and ending FEMA's reliance on outside legal counsel from expensive for-profit entities.
Better Training. Provides for increased training and certification of agents and adjusters to reduce mistakes and improve the customer experience.
Furthering efforts to ensure fairness and expedite New Jersey's recovery, Sen. Menendez and Rep. Pallone reintroduced legislation last year to prevent so-called clawbacks of federal disaster assistance from survivors of Superstorm Sandy (https://www.menendez.senate.gov/news-and-events/press/menendez-pallone-unveil-legislation-to-help-residents-recovering-from-superstorm-sandy). Originally introduced in 2015, the legislation was in response to recoupment letters sent by FEMA to recover what it considered overpayments. FEMA has clawed back almost $3 millionfrom more than 750 Sandy survivors.
Sen. Menendez and Rep. Pallone then joined Gov. Murphy and Sen. Booker at the Union Beach Fire Department for a news conference, where Gov. Murphyannounced a new $50 million program Sandy survivors can tap to finish rebuilding their homes. Funding for the program originates from the 2013 Sandy relief package that Sen. Menendez fought tirelessly to pass through Congress. Through Gov. Murphy's program, eligible homeowners can receive funds in the form of a zero-interest, no payment loan that is completely forgiven if the homeowner stays in their home for 15 years.
After Governor Chris Christie made no mention of Superstorm Sandy during his 2015 State of the State address, Sen. Menendez led the Democratic state delegation in a letter pressing Gov. Christie to make changes to the state's Sandy relief program (https://www.menendez.senate.gov/news-and-events/press/menendez-leads-nj-delegation-in-calling-for-greater-in-efficiency-accountability-and-transparency-of-sandy-recovery-process). The changes were designed to increase the efficiency, accountability, and transparency of the recovery process.
Rebuild by Design, an initiative fueled by Sen. Menendez's efforts, is aiming to mitigate flood prone areas including Hoboken and the Meadowlands. Hoboken, which is susceptible to flash floods and storm surges, received $230 million from the project for coastal defense. The Meadowlands, including the towns of Little Ferry, Teterboro, Moonachie, South Hackensack, and Carlstadtreceived $150 million to complete three flood risk reduction projects.
Sens. Menendez and Booker first exposed the problem of widespread lowballing (http://www.menendez.senate.gov/news-and-events/press/menendez-exposes-problems-in-sandy-flood-insurance-claims-process-fema-pledges-to-fix) of flood insurance claims during Congressional hearings he chaired in 2014.
Sen. Menendez authored the Superstorm Sandy Relief and Disaster Loan Program Improvement Act (http://www.menendez.senate.gov/news-and-events/press/menendez-bill-to-help-struggling-sandy-homeowners-businesses-recover), signed into law last November, which extended and expanded access to federal disaster loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). His Homeowner's Flood Insurance Affordability Act (http://www.menendez.senate.gov/news-and-events/press/menendez-led-flood-insurance-reforms-now-law) was signed into law in 2014 to address skyrocketing rates many Sandy survivors were encountering. In 2013, he shepherded the original $60 billion federal Sandy aid package (http://www.menendez.senate.gov/news-and-events/press/menendez-lauds-senate-passage-of-604-billion-sandy-relief-package) through Congress.
By Colleen O'Dea - NJ Spotlight - MURPHY PLEDGES $50M TO SANDY HOMEOWNERS STILL REBUILDING 6 YEARS LATER
On the sixth anniversary of superstorm Sandy, some 1,200 New Jerseyans still can’t return to their homes. Now, the state is finally taking action to make additional assistance available to them.
Gov. Phil Murphy traveled to Union Beach, one of the Shore communities hardest hit by the massive storm, to announce the state plans to redirect $50 million in unspent funds to a program that would provide no-interest loans to homeowners. Those loans could be forgiven eventually, if residents have already received a $150,000 grant from a major homeowner-relief program but still could not pay all the costs of rebuilding.
“We could congratulate ourselves all we want on the rebuilding … however, we cannot stop until every family in every Sandy-impacted community is once again able to walk back to the doors of their homes,” said Murphy, after noting that most of the state’s residents, businesses, and boardwalks have returned to normal. But while 330 homeowners in Union Beach have been able to rebuild, 56 have not. Statewide, the number is “1,200 families six years later. We must get them back into their homes.”
Help for the hardest hit
Murphy also announced an official moratorium on the state’s seeking repayment from owners who have been unable to prove they spent all aid appropriately, along with an “extreme financial hardship allowance” that could lead to the state forgiving so-called clawbacks, which seek to recover money already disbursed. Owners will apply for an allowance to the state Department of Community Affairs, which will evaluate each individual’s ability to recoup aid. Proven cases of extreme hardship — including those who lost a home to foreclosure or who declared bankruptcy — would have their debt reduced or eliminated.
This “new approach … will no longer employ collection agency tactics,” Murphy added.
Both of those changes were requested two months ago by the New Jersey Organizing Project, which has been working to help Sandy victims recover, when the state announced an earlier reallocation of $10 million in federal Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds.
“There’s a new collaborative attitude to bring humanity and compassion back into the recovery process,” said Doug Quinn, a member of the New Jersey Organizing Project (NJOP), who is one of those still trying to finish rebuilding his home along the waterfront in Toms River. “Our goal is to get all our citizens home.”
‘Never-ending nightmare’Quinn said he was “cheated by my flood insurance company and the engineering firm they hired to do their dirty work,” so the reconstruction of his home “turned into a never-ending nightmare that consumed my life.”
The new loan program is for those who got help through the state’s main housing-recovery programs, Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation, and Mitigation (RREM) and Low-to-Moderate Income (LMI) Homeowner Rebuilding. Those programs provided grants to homeowners to cover rebuilding costs up to $150,000 not otherwise funded by insurance, Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance, Small Business Administration loans, or other sources. Together, the RREM and LMI programs have rebuilt some 6,420 Sandy-damaged homes.
Those unable to complete reconstruction would be able to apply for a loan for whatever amount is needed to finish the work after accounting for flood insurance, SBA loans, and any other funds available to the homeowner. The loans would have no monthly payment requirements. A homeowner who remains in the house for 15 years following the completion of construction would have the loan forgiven, while someone who sells a home prior to meeting that residency requirement would have to repay a portion of the loan.
Public comment period
The state received about $4.2 billion in CDBG disaster-recovery funds and has spent all but $1.2 billion. Officials had to craft detailed plans for spending the federal money. All changes to the way the money is spent are subject to a public comment period and a hearing and need approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Murphy said all of the $1.2 billion not spent is earmarked for projects. It must be spent by 2022.
“A lot of the money that is still outstanding is for the larger flood-control and other projects like the one we are doing here in Union Beach,” said Rep. Frank Pallone, a Democrat whose 6th District includes part of the Jersey Shore. “We’ve been focusing on individuals and helping individuals but that bottom line is a lot of that package was for Army Corps flood-control projects. And these are ongoing, hundreds of millions of dollars.”
The Union Beach project, estimated to cost about $290 million, includes a beach berm and dune system, a number of levees and floodwalls, road closure gates, pump stations, tide-gate structures, and beach replenishment.
Some 90 percent of Union Beach, which lies along the Raritan Bay shoreline, was flooded by as much as 10 feet of water from Sandy. More than 340 homes were destroyed or left uninhabitable. Perhaps the storm’s most iconic image, of a yellow two-story home cut roughly in half diagonally, was taken in Union Beach.
Statewide, Sandy damaged an estimated 346,000 homes, knocked out power to 2 million households, and killed 37 people.
Playing superstorm politics?
This being an election year with Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez facing a tough challenge from former pharmaceuticals executive Bob Hugin, Murphy, Pallone, and others present all praised Menendez for fighting for Sandy victims for the past six years.
Menendez and Pallone held a roundtable discussion with Sandy survivors in nearby Belford prior to Murphy’s announcement. The Senator opened it up by talking about his memories of seeing the devastation, of meeting those who had lost everything, but also seeing “some of the best of what we are as a state.” He also recounted fights to gain passage of a bill to stop a hike in flood insurance premiums that would have cost New Jersey ratepayers $50 million. The measure also reopened flood insurance claims that had been “lowballed” to gain another $260 million for policyholders.
Menendez also made a pitch for legislation he is sponsoring, the SAFE NFIP Act, that would provide sweeping
reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program, which needs to be reauthorized by November 30. Among its provisions, the bill would reauthorize the NFIP for six years, cap annual premium increases at 10 percent, and invest in mitigation efforts. It is one of a number of reauthorization bills pending.
“It’s the most comprehensive bill,” said Menendez, who has bipartisan co-sponsorship. “It takes all the lessons we learned from the consequences of Sandy and incorporates them. This is the best bill. “
Krista Sperber, a Belmar resident who was knocked out of her home by Sandy for three years, agreed.
“At a time when more people need flood insurance, it is getting too expensive,” said Sperber, another NJOP member.
Krista Sperber, one of the founding members of the New Jersey Organizing Project, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ)
Sperber said that despite the flooding that damaged her home, she “felt pretty good because I knew I had the maximum flood insurance coverage.” But her insurer paid only 10 percent of her claim and she had to hire an attorney, and agree to pay him a third of any settlement, to get more money. While she remained out of her home for three years, she also suffered a period of paralyzing depression and anxiety.
“We can’t have families priced out of protection,” Sperber continued. “The SAFE NFIP Act works to make flood insurance more affordable, but even more than that, it prioritizes making mitigation funding available before a disaster. That means families can be safer, their flood insurance costs go way down, and every dollar spent on mitigation saves taxpayers six dollars after a disaster. But above all, prioritizing mitigation would save families the kind of heartache all of us went through and are still going through because of Sandy."
By Kimberly Bosco - Jersey Shore Online - Myhre & Mangino Compete For Mayoral Seat, Spodofora Switches Sides
STAFFORD – After many years of seeing Mayor John Spodofora sit on the dais of Stafford Township Council, residents will see a new candidate take that seat following this year’s general election; possibly even ushering in a new era for Stafford Township.
The two contenders for the mayoral vote are Gregory Myhre and Joe Mangino. Myhre, a staunch “Make America Great Again” Republican, and Mangino, and outspoken Democrat, are vying for a three-year term as mayor of Stafford.
Representing opposing sides of the political spectrum, residents will have a big decision to make come Election Day on November 6.
Myhre is a resident of the Ocean Acres section of Stafford Township where he lives with his wife Amber and three children. While he is employed as the operations manager for a computer network integration firm, he does boast some experience in civil service as a former elected member of Ocean County Republican Committee and Ocean County Republican Screening Committee.
“I am a member of the Ocean Acres Civic Association where I have participated in neighborhood clean-up efforts. I am also active with my son’s Cub Scout pack,” added Myhre.
His biography on the Stafford Conservative social media page also defines Myhre as an “avid outdoorsman” who enjoys boating, fishing and scuba diving as well as an “Eagle Scout, member of National Rifle Association, NJ Second Amendment Society, & Marine Mammal Stranding Center.”
Myhre is the leader of the self-titled Stafford Conservatives who believe Stafford is in need of defense against “Governor Murphy’s far left policies and becoming a sanctuary town.” Alongside Myhre are Thomas Steadman, Anthony Guariglia, Michael Pfancook, George Williams, Robert Henken-Siefken, and Paul Krier.
Together, the conservative team list top concerns for the township as fiscal stability, the opioid epidemic, and the success of small business.
“We will work with department heads to identify priorities to ensure that tax dollars are spent efficiently. We will also explore expanding shared service agreements with neighboring towns where it makes sense to do so,” he told Jersey Shore Online. “The opioid epidemic is a top concern and we will work with the police department to identify areas that need more attention.
“We are fortunate to have Dr. Anthony Guariglia on our team and he regularly deals with patients who have overdosed so he will be an invaluable asset as we work to mitigate this crisis.”
One of the Stafford Conservatives’ main platforms is small business growth.
“There are too many unoccupied buildings and store fronts. Repealing unnecessary regulations can help bring business back to our town and also encourage existing businesses to stay,” said Myhre.
Greg Myhre and his family (Photo courtesy Stafford Conservatives Facebook)While Myhre and his team have already begun laying out their plan of attack on some of these issues – some of which you can find on their page – he does not define their agenda as aggressive.
“We believe that listening to the concerns of residents is one of the best ways to identify priorities now and in the future,” he explained. “Improved communication can help to deliver better results, there will be more community outreach events and we will brief the residents on any significant issues in town through announcements at town council meetings and on the town website.”
Listening to resident concerns is an ideal that Democratic candidate Joe Mangino can get behind, as his slogan is “Focus on Stafford.” Mangino preaches that “when you vote for me, you’re voting for yourself” because he intends to be the voice of the Stafford residents.
Mangino lives in the Beach Haven West section of Stafford Township with his wife and two kids.
Mangino announced his candidacy for mayor on August 22. His name was not on the ballot during the primary election, and even came as a surprise to some residents.
Mangino and his team of Democrats were a write-in ballot, for which Mangino changed his party affiliation from Independent to run. He is flanked by fellow Democrats Joanne Sitek, Brian White, Nicole Downs, Kevin Teeple, Denise Pobicki, and Chris Marzullo.
Joe Mangino speaking at an event. (Photo courtesy Joe Mangino Facebook)“After the primary election, people reached out to me to get involved,” he explained.
Mangino is not only a mayoral candidate, but also a member of the Stafford Board of Education since 2017, board president of the New Jersey Organizing Project, co-founder of START (Stafford Teachers and Residents Together), and is employed in the field of wood restoration and power washing.
Unlike Myhre, Mangino does not believe Stafford is in danger or vulnerable to other powers.
“I don’t think Stafford is in a crisis…I don’t think major changes need to be made,” he said. He plans to focus on maintaining Stafford as the great town it is, doing that at a lower cost to the taxpayer if possible, he said.
A significant part of Mangino’s work has been to advocate for Superstorm Sandy survivors as well, which is why he noted that prevention against future disasters will also be a point of focus for his team.
Mangino has already begun brainstorming new ideas that he hopes to bring to the town should he become mayor. These include working on rehabilitating or using abandoned bank-owned properties, as well as creating a “Shop Stafford” type of program to incentivize local commerce and provide rebates to property taxes.
“For the last six years I’ve done my best to be a leader and to have a positive impact in our community. From Sandy recovery to my volunteer life to my work on the school board I’ve taken ownership of our town. I love Stafford Township and you can’t stop that,” stated Mangino in the August 22 announcement of his candidacy.
Spodofora’s Surprise Switch
In other election news, it became a point of contention when Mayor Spodofora announced his resignation from the Republican Club in order to support Mangino and the Focus on Stafford candidates in the election.
When several residents took their time during public comment at the Oct. 9 meeting to criticize Spodofora, he simply responded by stating: “I’ve known Joe for a long time…He is a very good man.”
In a letter to Republican Club President Richard Carlson, Spodofora explained his reason for resigning by stating he “simply cannot stay neutral, nor can I belong to a club that supports these (MAGA Republican) candidates.”
Stafford Mayor John Spodofora (Photo courtesy Stafford Township)According to a report by The Sandpaper, Spodofora was quoted saying: “My whole thing has always been about doing the right thing for the town. I don’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat – all I care about is the future of Stafford.”
Since the loss of the June 5 primary, Mayor Spodofora has been a good sport, offering to show Myhre and his team the ropes at town hall. Myhre has so far not accepted this offer.
In a final statement on the matter Spodofora said: “I continue to have great faith in democracy. However, I have an even greater belief in the people within our community. I remain proud of each of you who can look beyond your self-interests and concern yourselves with betterment of your community. I remain humbled to have served as your councilman and mayor and wish for continuing successes in Stafford.”
Residents can find more information on the individual Stafford Conservative candidate and their plan of attack at facebook.com/StaffordConservatives.
For more information on Mangino and the Focus on Stafford democrats, visit FocusOnStafford.org/.
By Michelle Brunetti Post - Press of AC -On Hurricane Sandy anniversary, N.J. pledges $50M to recovering homeowners
The state will provide $50 million in “cross the finish line” funds for homeowners who have received federal grants but are still struggling to recover from Hurricane Sandy, said Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday.
The announcement came on the sixth anniversary of the historic storm making landfall in New Jersey.
The nonprofit New Jersey Organizing Project, which formed to help Sandy victims with recovery efforts, has been lobbying for a “cross the finish line” fund.
The state still has about $1.2 billion in allocated but unspent federal Sandy funding, said NJOP Executive Director Amanda Devecka-Rinear. Her organization successfully argued some of it should be moved into helping people finish projects.
Murphy announced the changes to the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation, and Mitigation (RREM) Program and the Low-to-Moderate Income (LMI) Homeowner Rebuilding Program at a news conference in Union Beach, Monmouth County.
The change requires approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, but that isn’t expected to be a problem as the state has made other changes to its funding priorities in the past.
“It’s six years since Superstorm Sandy,” said Toms River resident Doug Quinn, of NJOP, as he introduced Murphy at the news conference. “There are people here today who haven’t even been able to even start rebuilding because they don’t have enough funding; and others who thought they were finished, (and) even though they followed the rules and did all they were told, the state wants back tens of thousands in grant funds.”
Quinn said the organization hopes the new program will give families more hope, more opportunity and more stability.
“We’ve fought long enough and families have been through too much,” he said.
A public hearing and a public comment period on the changes will be announced soon, the Governor’s Office said.
About 1,200 homeowners in the RREM Program and the LMI Program have not completed construction, according to the Governor’s Office.
DCA is proposing a zero-interest, forgivable loan to fully fund unmet needs beyond the maximum $150,000 grant.
Participants who owe money to the program will also have an opportunity to show that repayment of the amount owed will create an extreme financial hardship.
“We want to work with people who are struggling financially to determine what they can realistically contribute, and we want to get them across the finish line so they can return home and get some much-overdue normalcy in their lives,” said Murphy.
The proposed loan would be uncapped, require no monthly payments, and would be calculated based on the remaining work needed, said the Governor’s Office.
Homeowners who accept a loan would be required to live in the home for 15 years.
If the homeowner were to sell the home sooner, a portion of the loan would be due upon sale.
And homeowners with completed projects who have been notified they must repay excess grant funds — in what have been called “clawbacks” — will now be eligible to apply to DCA for an extreme financial hardship allowance, the governor said.
DCA will use a uniform test to evaluate the homeowner’s ability to pay and may provide forgiveness of some or all the debt that remains to be paid.
Homeowners who have lost their homes to foreclosure, the heirs of program participants who have died, and homeowners who have declared bankruptcy would also be eligible.
Together, the RREM and LMI pro grams have rebuilt about 6,420 Sandy-damaged homes, according to the state.
For more information, visit renewjerseystron ger.org.
News 12 New Jersey - KIYC: Some Sandy victims still have not ‘crossed the finish line’ to get home
LONG BRANCH -Six years after Superstorm Sandy, hundreds of New Jersey families are still not home, and advocates who work with Sandy survivors tell Kane In Your Corner some of them appear to be “stuck”, lacking the ability to “cross the finish line”.
Robin Buck of Long Branch has only a vacant lot where his house used to be. “It was only 1,400 square feet,” he says wistfully, “But it was my 1,400.”
Sandy flooded Buck’s house with 5 feet of water and destroyed the foundation, leaving him, his wife and their three teenagers with no place to live. Since then, they’ve moved between motels and furnished apartments, even spending a winter jammed into an unheated pop-up camper.
Buck thought his luck had changed when he was approved for a reconstruction grant, but three contractors later, construction has yet to begin. Buck says the first two contractors were unable to meet their obligations. He says the third, hired to build a modular home, had its plans initially approved, then disapproved by the state when it was belatedly discovered the home would not meet FEMA’s energy efficiency guidelines. The fourth and current contractor, the nonprofit Affordable Housing Alliance, tore down the old house in April but has not begun laying the foundation for the new one.
Once construction starts, Buck is not entirely sure how he’ll pay for his new house. He has $132,000 in grant money remaining. The new house will cost $235,000. He’s hoping a nonprofit will help him make up the difference.
“Nothing about this program has gone right so far,” Buck says. “Not a single thing.”
The Bucks’ story may be an extreme case, but hundreds of grant recipients are in similar situations. More than 8,600 homeowners received grants after Sandy, but only about 7 in 10 have gone through the process and completed construction. The rest are either still waiting or dropped out of the program. The New Jersey Division of Community Affairs claims the success rate is higher, nearly 85 percent, but it does not count the more than 1,200 families that dropped out of the program.
Six years after Sandy, Jim and Carol Ferraioli feel like their lives are a lot like their house in Middletown: up in the air. They received a house-lifting grant, but their contractor, selected by the state, walked away, leaving the house on temporary pilings, where it suffered irreparable damage. The contractor, Jamie Lawson, pleaded guilty to fraud over the summer, and could be released from prison in a little over two years.
“He’ll be out of jail before our house even gets done,” Carol Ferraioli says.
The Ferraiolis have been reimbursed for the grant money that was lost, and their grant was increased to the maximum of $150,000. But that still won’t be enough to replace the house. The plans, currently being reviewed by the township, call for a significantly smaller one.
Amanda Devecka-Rinear, executive director of the New Jersey Organizing Project, a nonprofit that works with Sandy families, says the more time passes, the harder it becomes for families to complete construction. The group is calling on the Murphy administration to create a new program to assist families who lack the funds to finish construction, using some of the $1.2 billion in federal grant money that New Jersey has not yet spent.
“There’s no more help,” Devecka-Rinear says. “There’s no more free legal services. There are no more organizations working on this. There’s us and a couple of other groups, but that’s it. So people are really kind of on their own now.”
News 12 New Jersey - 6 years later, some Sandy victims still not home
BRICK TOWNSHIP -Superstorm Sandy struck the Garden State six years ago, devastating areas along the Jersey Shore. In all of that time, there are still some New Jersey residents who are still not back in their homes that were damaged.
State officials say that there are still about 1,200 New Jersey families that are still dealing with Sandy aftermath – including Tricia McAvoy.
McAvoy says that her home was raised six feet, but that she has run out of money to complete all of the work needed to be done on the home.
“I’ll never forget the sound of the gurgling about 1 a.m.,” she says.
McAvoy says that within 20 minutes, 4 feet of water poured into her Brick Township home. Now six years later, the home still sits empty. She say that she still pays taxes on it but that she has frozen her mortgage.
The home’s foundation will need to be fixed because the house was raised before the bulkhead along the lagoon was repaired. The house sunk 4 inches, creating cracks.
McAvoy says that she received $150,000 from insurance, $42,000 from RREM funding and has also spent $32,000 out of pocket. She says that she cannot afford any more.
But some relief may be on the way. Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday that $50 million in federal funding will provide zero-interest loans to people like McAvoy, which will allow them to finally fix their homes.
“All I’ve wanted to do is one day come home and sleep in my bed again,” McAvoy says.
McAvoy says that she sometimes regrets having her home raised, especially after seeing her neighbors who reported less than 50 percent damaged who refused to being back home years ago.
By Russ Zimmer - Asbury Park Press - Sandy: Phil Murphy promises new loans for Sandy victims, end of clawbacks
Six years ago, superstorm Sandy bruised and battered the Jersey Shore and hundreds of families here are still dealing with the ramifications.
On Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy marked the occasion by announcing a new loan program and a shift in policy for the families still trying to free themselves from bureaucracy's red tape, to rebound from the shameless contractors who stole their second chance, and to move on from a natural disaster that has occupied years of their lives and plundered their savings.
"There's 56 in Union Beach alone," Murphy said inside the garage of the Union Hose Fire Company station in Union beach, one of the hardest hit boroughs on Oct. 29, 2012. "That's 56 families still waiting to write the end of their Sandy story."
Statewide, there are 1,200 some individuals or families still engaged in the state's primary rebuilding initiative, the Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) program. Watch Murphy address these families in the video at the top.
Hello! We’ve got complete midterm election coverage right here. Let’s begin!Some found the $150,000 maximum award insufficient because their flood insurance policies provided little relief. Others were fleeced by builders who either got in over their head or were looking to take advantage of a desperate population.
All of them are stuck and unable to finish their homes, nearly 2,200 days after landfall by a historic hurricane that shattered storm tide records up and down the coast.
The Murphy Administration is offering two solutions:
By Michael Aron - Murphy calls for more action on guns in the wake of Pittsburgh shooting
Two days after an anti-Semitic extremist killed 11 people in a synagogue and wounded six, Gov. Phil Murphy responded by calling for another round of gun reforms.
In June, he signed a 6-bill package tightening New Jersey’s already strict gun laws. Monday, he called for gun control 2.0.
“For all these big, awful events, like the slaughter on Saturday, there’s a daily drum beat of gun violence that we can never ignore,” he said.
Murphy called for a crackdown on gun trafficking; requiring a photo ID to purchase ammunition and sharing the purchase data with the State Police; speeding the introduction of smart gun technology; and targeting $15 million to certain high gun incident cities.
Murphy and those he stood with rejected President Donald Trump’s suggestion that an armed guard at the synagogue might have prevented some of the carnage.
“We cannot let President Trump and the NRA distract us from the fact and logic with their nonsense that more guns is the answer. Time and again they are proven wrong. We cannot wait for Congress to come to its senses and pass common sense gun safety laws. We must act, and we must act now,” Murphy said.
At an unrelated event on the 6th anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, Sen. Cory Booker spoke about the hatred he said is consuming the country.
“When hate is on the rise in the United States of America, a nation that has stood against hatred, stood against violence, stood against bigotry, we all have a responsibility to confront and address this. It’s not enough to say, ‘I’m not a racist.’ We must be anti-racist. It’s not enough to say, ‘I’m not anti-Semitic.’ We must be anti-anti-Semitism,” Booker said.
The Sandy event was in Union Beach, a small town that got hit hard.
“While there are 330 finished homes here, 56 in Union Beach alone remain unfinished. That’s 56 families still waiting to write the end of their Sandy story. That’s 56 too many,” Murphy said.
A Sandy victim activist recalled the six-year fight
“We fought FEMA and fought the insurance companies. We fought the RREM program, we fought crooked contractors, predatory banks trying to take our homes away through foreclosure, ” said Doug Quinn, a member of the New Jersey Organizing Project and a Sandy victim himself.
Murphy said statewide 1,200 families affected by Sandy are still not back in their homes. He announced the creation a $50 million zero-interest loan fund to help those families using unspent federal Sandy dollars. He is putting a freeze on clawbacks, which are attempts by the federal government to recoup some of the money it awarded victims.
The two U.S. senators and Congressman Frank Pallone joined Murphy at the event. With Bob Menendez facing a tough re-election fight next week, there were especially kind words tossed at him.
“Sen. Menendez has been our one-man 911 fund. Every time there was a problem we called him every single time. He’s come through for us — for Sandy victims and the state of New Jersey — so I want to thank you for being a light in the darkness for us,” Quinn said.
“How we fight back against the storms, whether they’re man-made or God-sent. And I’m telling you right now, if a storm is coming and I’m going to be manning the barricade, there’s one guy I want with me, and that’s Bob Menendez,” Booker said.
At his gun news conference, Murphy was asked whether he thinks the gun issue will have much impact on next week’s midterm elections. His answer? I hope so.
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.
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