STATEN ISLAND (PIX11) – Billions of dollars in Sandy aid grants is finally available for storm victims through NYC’s Build It Back Program, but there is a catch.
And it could cost storm victims thousands of much needed funds.
Like many Sandy survivors, the Eick family has been rebuilding their Staten Island home straight from their savings.
Eight months and nearly $50,000 later, the outside of their home looks beautiful.
“Oh yeah, the outside of the house looks great. Now, come on inside,” laughs Joe.
With an unfinished kitchen, bathroom and living room, there is still a lot of work to do and money goes fast. That is why Joe and Laura were grateful to hear the grants for the federal Sandy funds are finally available.
The problem is, something the government told them to do, right after the storm, is hurting them months later.
The Eicks say when they signed up for FEMA assistance back then, the agency made them apply for a SBA loan. They were approved for $160,000 that they would have to pay back over 30 years.
“30 years is a long time to have a note on your back so I said I can’t do this,” said Joe Eick. The Eicks turned down the loan.
They aren’t the only ones. A single mother of three, Angela Peralta is in the same boat. She was approved for a $40,000 loan. She also turned it down.
“I didn’t want to take a loan I would likely default on. If I die, my children, who are all underage would be responsible for that loan,” said Peralta.
Even though the families did NOT take on the loans, the Feds are still counting the applications as if they did take them and are deducting the amount they qualified for, from any future federal grants they could receive.
“They’re going to take off something I didn’t even get? That makes no sense. That’s why I feel like I’m being punished, everyone is being punished for this storm,” said Joe Eick.
NYS Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, pinpointed this problem awhile ago and has been working with the entire New York congressional delegation to fight the Feds.
“The federal government has to change this policy. They are going to destroy so many families and lives unless they waive this policy,” said Malliotakis.
Families like the Peraltas and the Eicks hope that happens soon, so that they can continue to rebuild their lives.
“It’s always an obstacle. ‘Oh, we’re going to help you, no, we are not going to help you, oh wait, we are going to help you, no, we are not going to help you.’ I just want it to be over,” said Laura Eick through tears.
The Feds overseeing Sandy aid tell PIX 11 News they are “keenly aware of the situation,” and “are working on it.” An announcement on this issue is expected in the coming weeks.
In the meantime if you are a storm victim and still need financial help, make sure you register for the NYC’s Build It Back program.