The lives of more than 200 Milford residents are still not back to normal a year after Hurricane Sandy displaced them and their families.
Many still are not back in their homes or remain in transitional housing, but local, state, and federal officials promised Monday that more help is on the way.
The state is expecting to receive $65 million in federal Community Development Block Grant dollars to help homeowners rebuild and repair their homes.
Connecticut Housing Commissioner Evonne Klein said the $65 million is “gap” funding, meaning its purpose is to fill the gap between what private or federal flood insurance doesn’t pay, or what the Federal Emergency Management Agency doesn’t cover, she said, adding that the money is designed to “meet the unmet need, and not to duplicate any of the benefits individuals may have already received.”
So far Milford officials have received 72 homeowner applications and two business applications for the funding. In the next two or three weeks officials will decide who receives the funding based on federal guidelines.
Klein said that the funding can be used to elevate the homes above the flood level if that improvement is accompanied by repair to the home.
But assistance can’t come fast enough for residents displaced by the storm a year ago.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he doesn’t believe help has come soon enough for some of these homeowners, but it’s here now and residents need to know where they can go for assistance.
“The three-month delay in moving on this issue was significant,” U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro said, referring to the release of disaster assistance funding by Congress.
“Government can’t do everything, but we have a moral responsibility to be engaged,” DeLauro said. “There are challenges that are not of ones doing that are overwhelming.”
Prior to Sandy, the U.S. House had approved about $290 billion in disaster assistance since 1989. The release of the funds was almost immediate after other natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. This time it took Congress 79 days to approve the money.
Once they approved the funding, Connecticut received about $45.4 million in disaster assistance grants and loans, $135 million for about 4,000 federal flood insurance claims, and another $72 million in Housing and Urban Development funds for repairs and mitigation efforts.
Milford Mayor Ben Blake said about 2,000 homes and buildings in his town were compromised, shifted off their foundation, or washed out to sea. In some cases, Blake said the homes resembled a child’s dollhouse as they were ripped off their foundations by the storm surge. The public works department hauled away 30,000 cubic yards of debris.
“While many of those evacuated have been able to return to the comfort of their homes, far too many Milford residents are still in the process of rebuilding,” Blake said.
In order for these homeowners to rebuild they need to get the payment from the insurance company, but the insurance company is holding that payment in escrow because in order to meet the requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program they need to elevate their home before they’re able to rebuild, Blake said.
He said it’s kind of a “Catch-22” for many of these homeowners because the cost of the settled insurance claim doesn’t cover the cost of elevating the home. They can’t access the money and they can’t elevate the home until they have money to elevate, he said.
There have been five emergency disaster declarations during Malloy’s administration. And while Connecticut didn’t receive a direct hit from Sandy, the damage in some towns along the shore was worse than the damage done by Tropical Storm Irene.
DeLauro said Super Storm Sandy was one of the most severe storms to hit Connecticut in the state’s history. She compared it to the Hurricane of 1938.
Last week, the state opened assistance centers in East Haven, Fairfield, Milford, and Norwalk for homeowners seeking help with damages.
The intake centers offer one-on-one assistance for affected homeowners seeking to access grants under the Housing Department’s Owner Occupied Rehabilitation and Rebuilding Program. The grants range from $10,000 to $150,000 to cover replacements or renovations or to make homes more resistant to storms. The assistance will only cover expenses that cannot be paid for through insurance or other types of federal assistance.