Some New Jersey victims of Superstorm Sandy who still aren't back in their homes 6½ years after the storm are getting some additional help.
State and federal officials announced Monday that they were removing a cap that had limited grants to $150,000 for the approximately 1,000 people who still need assistance. Those people could also be eligible for an additional 19 months of rental assistance as they rebuild their homes, bringing the total to 40 months of aid.
Gov. Phil Murphy said the state had recently gotten approval to repurpose $50 million in federal funds to help storm victims who are still displaced. That money comes from the federal Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds and will be reallocated to the main state rebuilding program for Sandy victims.
One of them is Rose Seward, of Long Branch, who is still paying a mortgage on her storm-damaged home while renting an apartment elsewhere.
"I still have a mortgage with two years left to go on it," she said. "I pay rent on an apartment, and there's utilities in both places that have to be paid. It's hard. I never thought I would be out this long."
Tricia McEvoy, of Brick, also isn't back in her lagoon-front home yet. The latest unwelcome surprise: a $5,000 bill for further work on repairs a contractor did on her garage and electrical system.
"I am now fixing my home for the seventh time, and I'm still not back in it," she said.
At a news conference in Neptune, across from a marina that was largely destroyed by Sandy and has since been rebuilt, Murphy, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and U.S. Rep Frank Pallone Jr. were among the elected officials encouraging storm victims to avail themselves of the expanded aid that will be available soon.
"We're not spiking the football yet," said Murphy, the Democratic governor. "We won't be satisfied until the number (of displaced storm victims) gets down to zero. My administration's goal is to get more funding into the hands of Sandy-impacted families who have run out of money and legitimately need additional resources to finish construction."
Meteorological monster Superstorm Sandy roared into the heavily populated New York metropolitan area in October 2012. In all, the storm left at least 182 people dead from the Caribbean to the Northeast.