Survey: Needs of Superstorm Sandy victims have not diminished

     A mixture of elevated and grade-level homes in Ocean Beach III on Oct. 29, 2014. (Photo: Justin Auciello/for NewsWorks)

    A mixture of elevated and grade-level homes in Ocean Beach III on Oct. 29, 2014. (Photo: Justin Auciello/for NewsWorks)

    Two years after Superstorm Sandy struck, the hardest-hit New Jersey residents are still in need, a Monmouth University Polling Institute survey found. 

    There is “little change” in the needs the residents expressed between last year and today, according to the survey. 

    “The state’s rebuilding grant program has been slow-going for most of New Jersey’s hard-hit residents. Even families who were able to move back into their homes shortly after Sandy hit are still having a hard time paying for needed repairs”, said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

    The survey’s findings:

    Most residents who received housing or utility payment assistance from the Sandy Homeowners and Renters Assistance Program (SHRAP) were satisfied with their experience. However, fewer than half actually applied for the program as many were unaware of its existence.
    58% of impacted residents say they need funds to elevate or rebuild their homes.
    Majorities of residents who are still displaced (61%), who are back in their homes (59%) and even those who were displaced for less than a month (55%) all say they need financial assistance to rebuild or elevate their homes.
    Not surprisingly, respondents who say they have yet to start rebuilding (84%) and those who have started to rebuild (70%) are considerably more likely to need this assistance than those who have finished rebuilding (39%).
    Four-in-ten (42%) hard-hit residents still need assistance replacing furniture and appliances two years after Sandy, which is down only slightly from last year when 47% said they needed this assistance. Respondents who are currently displaced (67%) continue to be more likely to report needing this help when compared to those who are back in their homes (29%) or who were displaced for less than a month (25%). Interestingly, the level of need for furniture and appliance replacement among each of these groups is almost the same as it was last year.
    About 3-in-10 (31%) impacted New Jerseyans who participated in the survey need help understanding rebuilding rules and regulations. A similar 30% need help obtaining the necessary documents to apply for Sandy relief programs.
    About 1-in-4 still need assistance with making mortgage (28%) or rent (23%) payments. These results are basically unchanged from one year ago and continue to affect all groups, with the highest level of need being rent payments among those still displaced (47%).
    In a related finding, the percentage of impacted residents who need assistance paying their utilities has gone up somewhat from 21% last year to 28% now. Participants of the survey who are currently displaced (33%), who have been able to move back into their homes (23%) or who were displaced for less than a month (29%) are all 7 to 9 percentage points more likely to report needing help paying for utilities than they were one year ago.
    Two years after Sandy’s landfall, about 1-in-5 hard-hit residents need assistance applying for construction and rebuilding permits (22%), obtaining legal assistance (21%), obtaining mental and emotional counseling (21%), assistance with debt management (19%), help finding out whether their home is in the floodplain (19%) and assistance with cleanup and debris removal (18%).
    Fewer need assistance with health care costs and coverage (15%), finding a temporary place to live (15%), purchasing food (12%), obtaining a buyout of their home (12%), employment assistance (10%), obtaining flood insurance (10%), obtaining homeowners or renters insurance (9%), and finding a new permanent home (6%). Monmouth asked about many of these needs a year ago. There has not been much change in the level of need for items that appeared on both surveys.

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