Monday, September 22, 2014

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NY1 examines the effects of Hurricane Sandy on the anniversary of the storm.

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Sandy One Year Later: Homeowners Still Wait For Money From 'Build It Back' Program

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TWC News: Sandy One Year Later: Homeowners Still Wait For Money From 'Build It Back' Program
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The federal funding announced Monday will supplement $650 million already allocated to the city's Build it Back program. The program is supposed to help those whose homes were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, but so far, almost none of that money has reached homeowners. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.

Recently, it was announced that Patricia Dresch, who lost her husband and daughter to Hurricane Sandy, was selling her property to the city, the first to receive money from the city's Build It Back program.

Tasked with distributing federal housing aid, Build It Back will pay to rebuild or repair your home, including elevating it in some cases. It can also reimburse you for work already done. Or, like Pat Dresch, you can opt to have city acquire your property and redevelop it.

So far, $648 million has been allocated to the program, and 24,000 have registered in advance of the deadline this Thursday.

The program was designed to be flexible and tailored to individual needs, but for those very reasons, it's also a burdensome process. The city must verify your eligibility, assess the damage to your home, and determine what aid you've already received from other sources like FEMA and insurance. As residents of hard-hit areas on Staten Island and elsewhere know all too well, that takes time and lots of paperwork.

Burt and Jean Laurie tore down their Hurricane Sandy-ravaged home, which is now an empty lot. They've made their frustration with the program visible.

"I signed up, like the sign says, three-and-a-half months ago, and I haven't got a phone call," Burt Laurie said.

City officials are wary of making promises, given that there may not be enough federal funding to go around.

"There are too many moving parts and variables for us, and the principal one being, we don't know how much money we're going to get," said Cas Holloway, deputy mayor of operations. "We got $1.8 billion. We know that's not going to cover everybody. That's not going to be close."

As a result, applicants are being prioritized based on damage and financial need. The good news is that more federal help is on the way, including the allocation announced Monday, and officials say the process is ramping up.

"Within weeks, we should have contractors in homes doing basic repairs, and that is going to continue for as long as we have people in the program," Holloway said.

For now, Dresch is the only recipient of Build it Back money, but officials say others will soon follow.

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