FEMA housing program ends this week

This home in Queens is still damaged by superstorm Sandy two months after the storm ripped through the tri-state area.

The Transitional Sheltering Assistance program instated after superstorm Sandy was extended earlier this month for an additional 14 days following Federal Emergency Management Agency approval of a request by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The short-term program placed people who could not return to their homes due to the storm in hotels while longer-term housing solutions are worked out.

Now the extended checkout date of January 27 is rapidly approaching, but there are still New Yorkers without longer-term housing.

“There aren’t a whole lot of empty rental units in New York City,” FEMA’s Caitlin Ostomel pointed out.

Red Cross volunteer Tony Herrera has been working with people who need assistance with housing, and said the program is “pretty successful,” but expressed concern.

“A lot of people have been placed,” Herrera said. “But there are people that don’t have a permanent source of income to maintain a permanent housing situation, or don’t have the basic skills for how to look for a place, they’ve never had to do this before.”

Ostomel urged New Yorkers to continue to update their files by calling the FEMA helpline or checking in at local Disaster Recovery Centers.

“Stay in touch with FEMA, and let us know about your housing situation,” Ostomel advised.

Senior citizens at risk 

Ann Dibble, director of the Storm Response Unit at the New York Legal Assistance Group, said this is especially difficult for the city’s lower-income seniors.

“It’s just not working here in New York City where we have such a shortage of housing available for people with limited incomes, especially people who are isolated or elderly and frail,” Dibble said.

Still in need of financial support?

FEMA’s Caitlin Ostomel urged New Yorkers affected by Sandy to register with FEMA at disasterassistance.gov, even if they’re still waiting on insurance. The deadline for that registration is January 28.

Ostomel said as of this past Friday, FEMA is still taking in at least 250 new registrations at their Disaster Recovery Centers daily.

She also recommended people apply for Small Business Administration loans even if they don’t need them — the only way to be eligible for various other financial assistance from FEMA is to be denied an SBA loan. Personnel at Disaster Recovery Centers can help fill out the applications, which Ostomel said are lengthy.

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat


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