Confused by construction codes, overwhelmed by the paperwork required to collect insurance payments, and unable to afford a contractor, many homeowners who suffered loss or damage during Hurricane Sandy are terrified of financial ruin and too paralyzed to repair or rebuild.
Even after Gov. Chris Christie blasted the pace of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and announced new regulations and financial aid packages last week many of Sandy’s victims still can’t or don’t know how to move forward.
“At first there was no information. And now that it’s there, the reality has sunk in that nobody has any answers,” said Faith Liguori, a trained disaster-response counselor who’s staying in a friend’s summer cottage after losing the first floor of her house in Seaside Park.
“Every time you think you can take a step back to your home there’s another setback,” she added.
In many ways, Liguori, the former head of Ocean County’s Department of Human Services, is luckier than most. She has a temporary place to live, a job, and a smartphone loaded with resources. But despite her connections and experience, she’s dumbfounded by the lack of answers and conflicting instructions.. She can’t imagine how victims with less money and knowledge of the system deal with the same obstacles.
Liguori's experiences are far from atypical. The situation is unraveling all across the storm-ravaged parts of the state.
For starters, Liguori's insurance company sent her an advance check at the end of last year, but it took her mortgage company, which ultimately releases the funds, two-and-a-half more months to let her cash it. After several rounds of faxed, rejected and refaxed forms to approve her proposed contractors and their estimates, Liguori received $20,000.
She used to remediate mold, strip her first floor and garages down to the studs, and hire an electrician to cap exposed wires. The check ostensibly included money to replace damaged appliances and other fixtures but only covered what they were worth when she bought them -- about half of what they cost to buy new.
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