Six years after Superstorm Sandy slammed the Garden State, causing billions of dollars in damage, about 1,200 families have still not finished rebuilding their homes.

During a visit to Union Beach on Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy announced the state will make an additional $50 million available to help those families complete necessary repairs.

He said to make this happen, the state is creating a new 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.”

The money will come from a re-dedication of as-yet undistributed federal Sandy HUD funds, Murphy said.

"In other words we can do this at no cost to the state or taxpayers and without impacting any existing recovery projects," he said.

Homeowners who accept this type of loan will be required to live in the homes for at least 15 years after construction is finished. If a house is sold before that time, a portion of the money would have to be repaid.

Additionally, Murphy said, said a new approach will be taken when dealing with families being asked to repay over-dispursements they had received through the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation program.

“We are announcing a freeze on new recoupment requests effective immediately,” he said.

The governor said no new recoupment requests have been made since he took office back in the middle of January, but this policy has now been formalized.

He said during this freeze, the Department of Community Affairs will revise its policies “to make it clear to families who are simply following the guidance they were given in Sandy’s wake, that we are going to work with them, and take their families’ actual and current financial situation into account.”

He said some families facing hardship may "even see some of or all their debt wiped clean.”

This would require a family to apply to the Department of Community Affairs for an extreme financial hardship allowance.

He said in every case, “New Jersey will no longer employ collection agency tactics, and DCA will formalize the details of this new policy in a process that listens to the voices of Sandy survivors.”

“For too long those decisions were made behind closed doors, that era is over," Murphy said.

He said it’s vitally important to let families still rebuilding know they won’t be forgotten.

“It is all too easy to think that we’re back entirely from the havoc Sandy wreaked on our shore communities and many others across our state, but the survivors still trying to get back in their homes tell a different story.”

He said these families have been waiting six long years.

“Where they have run up against a faceless bureaucracy, they will now be met with real people ready to help," Murphy said. "We will show them compassion as we show our resolve to complete the recovery process.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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