UNION BEACH, NJ - New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced Monday that more money will now be available to homeowners still struggling to rebuild after Superstorm Sandy, while people who already took out loans from the state to rebuild may now be able to have some or all of their debt forgiven.
“We want to work with people who are struggling financially to determine what they can realistically contribute," said Governor Murphy (D-NJ.) "We want to get them across the finish line so they can return home and get some much-overdue normalcy in their lives."
Approximately 1,200 families are still not home on the six-year anniversary of Sandy.
Previously, the state did offer loans up to $150,000 to help homeowners rebuild. But many Sandy survivors say the loan process was rife with bureaucratic roadblocks.
"You think the storm is the worst thing that could happen to you but the aftermath is worse," said Joe Torsiello, who said his home in Ventnor has still not been repaired because the money the state program agreed to loan him does not cover the cost to rebuild. "So we’re basically back where we started from. So, what the governor said today was very encouraging, that we could possibly get money from another source."
The new monies available would also be in the form of a loan, available with no max cap and at zero percent interest. This will be funded at no cost to the state, through $50 million in federal Sandy recovery funds that have still not been dispersed.
The Governor also pledged to freeze a practice known as 'clawbacks.' When the state rebuilding program, known as RREM, found it over-disbursed monies because a homeowner got repair costs covered through multiple resources, repetitive letters went out to try and recoup some of those funds. Murphy said his office actually stopped sending recoupment requests back in January, as soon as he took office.
Now, the Governor's office stated, if a homeowner can demonstrate that repayment of the recoupment amount will create an extreme financial hardship, they will be eligible to have their debt forgiven. This benefit will be available to Sandy survivors who later lost their homes to foreclosure, who died or who have declared bankruptcy.
In order to make changes to New Jersey's Superstorm Sandy housing programs, the state still needs to hold a public hearing and a public comment period.
So far, state programs have been able to help rebuild approximately 6,420 Sandy-damaged homes.