‘Exponential increase’ in Sandy-displaced families now back home, N.J. official says

Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Charles Richman testifies at Assembly Budget Committee hearing Monday. (Phil Gregory/WHYY))

Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Charles Richman testifies at Assembly Budget Committee hearing Monday. (Phil Gregory/WHYY))

Almost four years after Superstorm Sandy, thousands of New Jersey residents are still not back in their homes.

Just over three-quarters of the grant money in the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation, and Mitigation Program has been distributed to homeowners, according to Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Charles Richman.

He said Monday that of 7,800 households in the RREM program, more than 3,000 have completed construction.

“We have seen an exponential increase in the number of families that are finishing rebuilding and moved back in their homes, a thousand just in the last five months,” he said during a hearing before the Assembly Budget Committee.

Beach Haven West resident Sandi Mackay, who finally got back in her rebuilt and elevated home in January, said she still frustrated that it’s taking so long for others to return to their homes.

“They’re running out of money. They’re running out of resources,” she said. “They’ve gone into their retirement funds, they’ve exhausted that … college funds. Then, you put on top of it the changing regulations.”

Richman acknowledged those frustrations, and he said it could take another year and a half for all the RREM program participants to finish rebuilding.

He said he’s focused on helping homeowners get through the program so they can move on with their lives.

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