KIYC: Sandy victims’ struggles spelled out in new report

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Five years after Sandy, many New Jersey families are still suffering, financially, emotionally, even physically; their challenges were spelled out in their own words in a new report.

Angel Eguaras is one of them. He and his wife, Fe’, are still unable to return home. Their house, in Ventnor City, has failed inspection nine times. Eguaras has filed a police report, accusing his contractor of fraud. While he waits for additional grant money to finish repairs, he is simultaneously trying to get mortgage assistance from his bank. 

“When we are in the motel, it’s $3,000 a month,” Eguaras tells Kane In Your Corner, “and I still have to pay the mortgage.”

Angel’s story is one of many that appears in a report, released Wednesday by the New Jersey Resource Project, which assists storm victims. The report is titled “The Long Road Home”.

“I'd say the biggest takeaway is how much families are still struggling after five years, either to get home, or even if they are home, with the long term economic and financial impacts of surviving Sandy and surviving trying to get home,” says Amanda Devecka-Rinear, founding director of the NJRP and one of the authors of the report.

The report found 32 percent of Sandy homeowners surveyed said they had fallen behind on mortgages, taxes or other expenses.  Twenty six percent said they had to tap into their retirement accounts. Nineteen percent reported new or worsening dependence on alcohol or drugs, while 70 percent reported new or worsening health problems.

Andre Buranicz, of Toms River, is one of them. Earlier this year, he suffered a stroke. He blames it, at least in part, on the stress of his stalled house-lifting project, which Kane In Your Corner has been chronicling for over a year.

The report also recommends changes to help future storm victims, including reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program, which underpaid tens of thousands of homeowners. The NJRP notes the system currently only penalizes insurance companies if they overpay claims. The group contends that unless that changes, insurers will continue to be incentivized to pay too little.

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