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Millions Available for Post-Sandy Expenses [AUDIO]

NEW JERSEY 101.5

Victims of Superstorm Sandy, who are falling behind on living expenses, could be eligible for up to $15,000 in assistance grants.

Sandy repairs continue along the Jersey Shore. (Kena Betancur/Getty Images)

The Sandy Homeowner and Renter Assistance Program will disperse $57 million throughout the state, focusing on some of the hardest hit areas. The program offers up to $15,000 for up to six months of mortgage, rent, or utility bill payments. It also allows applicants to replace storm damaged appliances and furniture.

Since it launched last month, more than $1 million has been paid.

Speaking at Ocean Inc., Department of Human Services Commissioner Jennifer Velez said all of the money distributed is tracked and recipients are never just handed a check.

“It’s to a bank, it’s to a landlord, it’s to a voucher to pay for an appliance at a vendor,” she said.

Brick-based Ocean Inc. is the agency contracted by the county to distribute the SHRAP funds; already 50 households were awarded over $100,000.

Ocean County expects to receive roughly $30 million, though Velez says funds can be shifted around the state to where the need is.

To be eligible, individuals or families must have financial distress related to Superstorm Sandy, be U.S. citizen or eligible aliens, not currently receiving Work First New Jersey benefits or eligible for WRFNJ/SSI emergency assistance.

Applicants do not need to be registered with FEMA or any other source of funding since the SHRAP program is independent.

“You may have been helped by FEMA or not necessarily, it’s really the program that aren’t covered by another source,” Velez said.

The program is funded through federal Social Services Community Block Grant totaling $247 million, which includes other aid, programs to install ramps in homes and provide mental health counseling. Velez noted many of those programs are slated to run into 2015.

“Post 2015, that will be several years out from the storm and we’re hoping all the help and assistance, particularly financial and emotional, we’ll have gotten people out to a place where they are rebuilding their home and recovering.”

She said that even though the money is being distributed a year after the storm, for many it’s the ideal time to receive help.

“You’ve kind of dealt with the aftermath of the storm, you’ve gotten some things in place,” Velez explained. “You know where you stand and where you don’t; this is coming at a perfect time to fill in the gaps.”

More information is available on the Department of Human Services website.

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