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NJ Residents To Hear Soon About Sandy Grant Awards

file photo (Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

file photo (Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey residents will start learning this week whether they’re getting grants to rebuild their homes or resettle their communities after Superstorm Sandy, state officials told The Associated Press on Monday.

State Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable said applicants for two major programs funded by the federal government but run by the state will learn their fate soon and that widespread rebuilding could begin by the end of summer.

“We’re excited,” Constable told the AP. “This is great news for our residents.”

Still, one of the programs appears to have just a fraction of the money needed to meet the state’s needs. The other has enough money to do more.

The grants are from two major pieces of a $1.8 billion aid award from the federal government. Another similar-sized federal allocation to cover needs unmet by other government programs is expected to be made later this year and a third in 2014.

These grants come in two programs — one that is awarding up to $150,000 per household for rebuilding costs not covered by insurance or other government programs; and one that gives people who live in storm-damaged homes $10,000 in return for committing to stay three years in their counties.

The higher-priced program was oversubscribed. More than 12,000 households have applied since May. Less than one-third of them — about 3,500 — were accepted. About 5,000 more were put on a waiting list and another 3,500 were declared ineligible, Constable said.

There are some strings attached for the recipients.

They will have to work with state-approved homebuilders and will be able to choose only from a list of state-selected home designs. Recipients will have to come up with their share of rebuilding costs — in many cases, that money will come from insurance or other government aid — and put it in escrow for building to start.

The program prioritized making the first wave of grants to low- and moderate-income residents and those whose homes had at least $28,800 in damage from the storm last October. Recipients within those criteria were selected at random.

The average size of the grants from the rebuilding program will be determined later.

The resettlement program is intended to maintain the character of storm-stricken neighborhoods by assisting people with non-construction costs. Residents of homes with at least $8,000 in damage were eligible.

Of the roughly 14,000 applicants, Constable said 11,000 are getting awards. About 900 were put on waitlists.

But for this program, the issue was not a lack of funding. Rather, he said, the state was adhering to federal guidelines to make sure at least 60 percent of the funds are going to low- and moderate-income households. Because not enough of those households applied and were found to be eligible, some higher-income residents were blocked from getting the funds.

Constable said his department will ask the federal government to waive the income requirement so they remaining eligible applicants can get awards, too.

Those who get the grants will have to meet with officials at state storm recovery offices to verify their identity. They are to receive the checks two weeks after that.

Both awards were available only to residents of the nine hardest-hit counties.

Across the state, 40,000 owner-occupied homes and 15,000 rental units were deemed to have significant damage from the storm.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)