Longterm Recovery Group has resources to help Sandy-impacted homeowners

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 Members of the Mental Health Association were available to help homeowners still struggling more than 18 months after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Pictured are caseworkers Jordan Brunette of Absecon, Jaime Angelini of Smithville and Meghan Cusack of Linwood. Members of the Mental Health Association were available to help homeowners still struggling more than 18 months after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Pictured are caseworkers Jordan Brunette of Absecon, Jaime Angelini of Smithville and Meghan Cusack of Linwood.  EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – More than 50 people showed up to find out how they can get help repairing their Sandy damaged homes at a special meeting held at the township’s Community Center Wednesday, April 16.

Township Administrator Peter J. Miller arranged the meeting with the Atlantic County Longterm Recovery Group to assist homeowners who are still struggling more than 18 months after Hurricane Sandy damaged their homes. However, to obtain financial assistance, residents must register their proof of loss before the April 28 deadline.

“With their 30 volunteer organizations, the township thought it would be beneficial for our residents to interact with them,” Miller said before introducing the group’s Chairman Henry Wise.

 Although the LTRG has helped homeowners who live in shore towns, there is a need in offshore Egg Harbor Township, especially in bayfront areas and West Atlantic City, Miller said.

Ten of the group’s social service providers were on site to offer assistance with social and mental health, housing rehabilitation, flood insurance, renter’s assistance, parent and child advocacy and legal services.

“Since Sandy hit, we have been reaching out to find people still in need. There are time limits on our grants and we need to spend the money before our grants expire,” Wise said.

The LTRG serves residents in Atlantic, Cumberland and Cape May counties.

“We want to find individuals who still need assistance, but we’re not hearing from those people. We know there are people in the community who need help, but they need to come forward. We have the money to assist them with reconstruction and even buying new furniture,” Wise said.

The first step to get financial assistance is to call 2-1-1 before April 28, Wise said.

“When you call 2-1-1, you will speak to someone from Catholic Charities who will assign you to a case worker who will move you through the system,” he said.

The LTRG utilizes volunteer contractors to rehabilitate homes, Wise said.

“They are screened to ensure they do a good job on your house,” he said.

Applicants are assigned an identification number to guarantee their application is being facilitated anonymously. Case workers will help applicants through the bureaucratic process, which requires lots of documentation and paperwork.

The Sandy Homeowner Renter Assistance Program, which is one of 30 LTRG agencies, provides housing while the home is being repaired or raised, Karen McDonald said. The organization received a $2.5 million grant, but only $1.5 million has been spent, and the grant expires in September, she said.

“We can get you up to $15,000 to help pay your mortgage, or provide rent and utilities while your house is being fixed. It can also be used to pay real estate taxes and homeowner’s insurance,” McDonald said.

“We have been doing this for six months and have been a real help to a lot of people,” her associate Derek Heritage said. “We want to spend the money and get it out there.”

Although Egg Harbor Township had not previously participated in the National Flood Insurance Community Rating System because of the cost to the municipality, the township is now working to start the floodplain management process, Miller said.

Getting a lower community rating would reduce the cost of flood insurance premiums by five percent for each class reduction. Currently, Egg Harbor Township residents get no reduction because the township is rated 10. If it gets to level 9, residents would get a 5-percent discount. The lowest rating, 1 would offer a 45-percent discount on the cost of flood insurance premiums.

Alex Hersanski of South Jersey Legal Services, which provides free legal advice to financially qualified individuals, said Governor Chris Christie has been asked to extend the deadline, but has not issued one.

“The deadline to submit your proof of loss and supplemental proof of loss is April 28. To do that you need to submit a formal written and signed estimate to FEMA. It can be difficult and tricky,” Hersanski said.

Residents must submit a line-by-line estimate from a qualified contractor on the cost of replacing the damage room-by-room. It is called “scope of loss” estimate and includes an estimate of depreciation, Hersanski said.

His associate Olga Pomar said legal services can also provide assistance when homeowners have problems with their public adjusters or contractors who do a poor job or don’t finish.

After the presentation, residents lined up to talk with agency representatives to find out if help is available. One gentleman, who inherited a Sandy-damaged home when his mother passed away, learned that because it is a second home, he is not eligible for assistance.

“We won’t give you false hope. Every case is different,” Wise said. “But the only way we can help is if you ask for it.” Members of Barnabas Health Institute’s Turning Tides program were available to help families and children affected by Hurricane Sandy. Pictured here are Kristin Mittleman of Linwood, Valarie Watson of Upper Township, Erica Hair of Egg Harbor Township and Kristin Lees of Mays Landing. Members of Barnabas Health Institute’s Turning Tides program were available to help families and children affected by Hurricane Sandy. Pictured here are Kristin Mittleman of Linwood, Valarie Watson of Upper Township, Erica Hair of Egg Harbor Township and Kristin Lees of Mays Landing.


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