Sandy Victims Still Hurting [AUDIO]
Ten months after Superstorm Sandy, New Jerseyans unable to return home are asking legislators for help.
Residents of Atlantic City, Union Beach, and Neptune appeared before members of the Assembly’s Environmental and Solid Waster Committee and the state Senate’s Environmental and Energy Committee during a joint public hearing Thursday in Atlantic City. While each person’s story was different, the themes remained constant; stacks of paperwork, endless phone calls, and failed promises from insurance companies and government agencies.
After dealing with three feet of water in her Union Beach home, Simone Dannecker and her husband spent every penny they had to make repairs. Now she is fighting her mortgage company to keep her home after she fell behind on payments when necessary grants fell through.
“I work a part time job at a bank, I’m a teller. I work another part time job filling out applications and grant and paperwork to try and get us to stay in our home.”
Dannecker broke down in tears during Thursday’s panel, describing the heartache of possibly losing the home she and her husband raised a family in. “They’re telling me I owe $320,000 on a house that’s in a ridded community. This house isn’t worth $150,000 right now.”
Dannecker said at this point she is not sure if she should still fight to retain her home, or walk away completely.
Lee Ann Newland of the Shark River Hills section of Neptune cannot return to her own home yet either. However her and her husband, who are both music teachers and run a music education program for underprivileged youth, have been paying mortgage and taxes on their home. She claimed her mortgage company also took taxes when Neptune had a moratorium on them immediately after the storm.
Newlands situation was similar in that she also filled out countless forms and spent hours on the phone trying to access relief funds and grants- which never came to fruition.
“Our home remains uninhabitable, no hope remains on the horizon. We’re exhausted and frustrated and feel let down, mostly by our flood insurer as well as the false hope provided by the agencies working for the state of New Jersey.”
Dannecker also said the problems of being trapped in a spiral of paperwork extends beyond homeowners. One of Union Beach’s largest employers, Jake a Bob’s, still struggles with rebuilding after being destroyed.
“This poor woman has applied for a fifty thousand dollar grant. For over two months she’s been tied up in paper work. She’s employed 75 people in our little town of twenty three hundred homes.”
About 50y of Jake a Bob’s workers now collect unemployment because they lost their place of employment.
Newland was also critical of the “Stronger than the Storm” ad campaign, which feature Gov. Chris Christie and his family, claiming the message of “all is well” is distressing to watch when people still remain homeless.
Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Christie, said the ads “were critical to dispel the idea that the shore, rentals and attractions were unavailable or unattractive. The governor has made these distinctions many times, as well as recognizing that there are still many displaced people trying to get their lives back in shape while many, many others are back to normal or already have.”