The first chunk of new federal aid for Sandy assistance will largely funnel to people still stuck without homes, the mayor said this morning.
Three months after the storm, thousands of New Yorkers are not sleeping in their own homes.
Today, the first Congress-approved aid began filtering in, including $1.77 billion for New York City.
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Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the funding will create grants for homeowners and businesses struggling to rebuild.
In a hearing Tuesday, the City Council addressed the thousands of people unable to return to homes – some in shelters, others in hotels. Many said before the hearing that they are living in squalid conditions.
Starting in April or May, the funding will provide grants to homeowners, as well as businesses, who need help getting back on their feet, Bloomberg said.
“Some have had their homes completely destroyed, and the question is, what are we going to do to help them?” Bloomberg said.
But Patrick Markee at the Coalition for the Homeless said the proposals do not meet a pressing need – long-term assistance to people waiting for rebuilt homes.
And not all are homeowners, he added. Many had been renting and are now unable to find new apartments.
For example, an older Russian couple was renting a Coney Island basement apartment for $800 a month, he said.
Now, they find $1,500 rents, which they cannot afford.
“There’s a lot of need out there,” Markee said.
More than 13,000 businesses were impacted by Sandy, Bloomberg said today. The city will offer up to $1 million in grants to business owners who commit to staying in New York City.
“You can’t live if there aren’t local stores,” Bloomberg said. “We want to make sure they recover and make themselves less vulnerable.”
The millions devoted to housing recovery also include $120 million toward public housing developments, for uses like installing emergency generators, and $100 million in grants for innovative infrastructure ideas.
People ‘don’t want to leave’ hotels
Bloomberg said today that some staying in hotels are not eager to check out. “Some of the people in hotels don’t want to leave,” he said. Markee dismissed this as “a ridiculous comment,” adding that people do not enjoy spending three months away from jobs, communities and schools. “None of these families want to stay in a hotel,” he said.
Bloomberg defends delay
The mayor told reporters that funds would be available in the spring. “We’re not just going to send out checks,” he said. They want to make sure everyone qualifies. “In government speak, this is instantaneous. The government doesn’t back up a truck and dump bills on the ground.”