Hurricane Sandy Relief Update
Every day since Hurricane Sandy swamped our city, I have been learning the stories of courageous acts and selfless deeds by my constituents who saved lives, or reached out to help others. There’s Jon Candelaria from Stanley Isaacs Houses on Manhattan’s East Side, for instance, who risked his life during the storm to rescue a taxi driver whose cab was overwhelmed with water. You can read about more about his heroic rescue here.
There have also been stories, far too many, of heartbreaking loss. On Monday, I visited Tony Mazzarella at the Waterfront Crabhouse in Astoria. His restaurant was inundated with water up to the second floor. With grit and determination, he is beginning the slow and painful process of recovery.
Some, like those I met out in the Rockaways over the weekend, have lost everything: homes, cars, belongings, insurance and tax records, even their warm winter clothes.
Yesterday, I joined Karen Mills, the Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), as she toured businesses that had been flooded at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. We met one proprietor whose business was art restoration and rescue. Ironically, its workers had to use all the skills they typically deploy saving others’ artwork to save paintings and sculptures they were storing themselves. And then, after successfully taking care of the vast majority of the pieces in their care, they turned to help rescue artwork all over our city.
Recovering from a disaster like Hurricane Sandy is going to take a lot of help from a lot of different resources. It is inevitably a long process and it generally has three, sometimes overlapping phases.
Phase One: The immediate response. Every effort is focused on protecting lives and providing for people's immediate needs -- making sure everyone affected has shelter, food, medical treatment, electricity, heat, and hot water.
Phase Two: The full scope of the devastation is evaluated. We are starting to evaluate the true scope of our losses. The hurricane struck an area as large as Europe.
Phase Three: Rebuilding. After the lights are back on, heat is restored, transportation has returned to normal, gas stations have abundant fuel supplies, and people are either back in their homes or in shelter, it is time to rebuild. And this is going to be a huge job. A lot of people are going to need help. But fortunately, there is a lot of help available.
Here are some of the programs that help you get started with your recovery:
Federal disaster aid is available for individuals in the form of grants and for businesses as loans. Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.
IF YOUR BUSINESS OR HOME SUFFERED DAMAGE, REGISTER FOR FEMA SUPPORT.
If you don't register you can't qualify. To register for federal assistance, go to: http://www.fema.gov/do-i-qualify-assistance or visit www.disasterassistance.gov or call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) for more information.
For renters, homeowners and businesses, the Small Business Administration offers disaster low interest loans. These are direct loans, not through a bank, that can help people get back into their homes and can help businesses recover.
Homeowners and renters can borrow up to $40,000 to repair or replace clothing, furniture, cars or appliances damaged in the disaster and where the loss is not covered by insurance.
Homeowners can borrow up to $200,000 to repair or replace their primary place of residence.
A business -- of any size -- can apply for a loan of up to $2 million to repair or replace damaged real estate, equipment, inventory and fixtures.
Small businesses and not-for-profits of any size can apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan of up to $2 million to meet necessary financial obligations.
To apply for a disaster loan from SBA, you can call 1-800-659-2955 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, housing is going to be a huge concern. It is estimated that 260,000 people have been displaced at least temporarily by Sandy. That is the equivalent of the entire population of Buffalo. And the need to find shelter for them happened virtually over night in a city where the vacancy rate for apartments is less than 2 percent. This is going to be a huge challenge for everyone concerned.
Yesterday I joined Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, city and state government officials and real estate leaders to discuss ways the private sector can help people who have been made homeless by the storm.
We are truly fortunate that Secretary Donovan, previously Commissioner of NYC’s Department of Housing, Preservation & Development, understands the complexities of New York's real estate market. He doesn't need pointers to talk knowledgeably about Mitchell-Lama building, 80/20 housing or New York's rent stabilization laws. He and his team have pledged to work with all levels of government and the private sector to cut through red tape and help people move out of shelters and into temporary or permanent housing. We are going to need an “all of the above” approach and will need to think outside the box.
As a massive recovery effort gets underway over the coming weeks and months, our communities will need a lot of help. It has been heartening to witness the most senior members of the President’s cabinet coming to see our problems first-hand, and to witness the first steps forward to developing real solutions to our massive problems following the storm.
Carolyn B. Maloney
Member of Congress