New Jersey marks $50M for Sandy victims still not home yet

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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.

RELATED: Sandy victims still waiting for 'clawback' resolutions
PHOTOS: Sandy's devastation across New Jersey

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.”

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