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Mayor: Means Testing Sandy Rebuilding Aid Is a Mistake

Income limits could potentially lock out many Brick storm survivors

Directing the bulk of aid for residents to raise or rehabilitate their homes to come into compliance with FEMA flood maps toward lower and moderate income residents  is not a wise move and could mean many Brick residents will not receive help, Mayor Stephen C. Acropolis said.

State officials have said federal guidelines for one of the grant programs New Jersey will administer to help residents elevate or rehabilitate their homes require that the bulk of the funds go to those considered low or moderate income.

That could leave many Brick families out of luck, the mayor said at a township council meeting Tuesday night.

"Originally, we were told by people in Trenton that the money would not be means tested, however it is going to be means tested," said Acropolis. "My comment to [federal officials] is, on the waterfront in Brick Township, with mom and dad working, maybe they have a couple kids and make $50,000 each. If they make $100,000 between the two of them, they're still just making ends meet."

The $600 million relief program, titled "Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation," or "RREM" by the state, will direct 70 percent of that funding toward low and moderate income households.

Under the state's affordable housing guidelines for Ocean County, moderate income is considered $51,179 for a single person, $58,490 for a two person household, $65,802 for a three person household and $73,113 for a four person household.

By the same token, a "low income" four person family in Ocean County earns $45,696 per year.

According to the 2010 census, the median income for a household in Brick is $81,868. Males had a median income of $60,769 while females had a median income of $41,361.

Acropolis said he personally brought his concerns to the attention of federal Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan in a recent meeting to which he was invited. In the conversation, Donovan indicated there could be a way to grant a waiver.

"He does understand, specifically, the needs of New Jersey," said Acropolis.

Under the program, homeowners can qualify for as much as $150,000 to aid in the reconstruction, rehabilitation, elevation and mitigation of damaged homes, a statement from Gov. Chris Christie's administration last week said.

"The $150,000 number sounds good, but if it's means tested, if it's split, there are going to be people in Brick who won't be able to get that money," said Acropolis.

The township council may consider sending a letter or passing a resolution commenting on the RREM program and other aspects of the state's federally-funded $1.8 billion aid program.

"The Christie Administration will dedicate over 50% of funding for low-to-moderate-income households, in accordance with HUD guidelines," the statement said.

Council members also took umbridge with the program's dedication of $25 million set aside for tourism advertising, as well as the fact that some of the package's programs – which include grants to businesses, home buyers and restoring parks and community areas – do not necessarily have to go to Shore area communities.

The state has said 80 percent of the funding will go to Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean and Union counties, which it considers the hardest hit. The remaining 20 percent of the funding can be used in other counties.

OceanCounty March 20, 2013 at 07:39 PM
Maybe FEMA just needs to dole out the necessary funds without means testing (up to a much higher limit than currently proposed), but put a lein on the property. We all know that in 5-10 years from now when the shore is rebuilt, and property values have gone up, some owners will sell for a huge profit; at least with a lein, the government will get back some of the tax dollars.
Watchman March 20, 2013 at 08:07 PM
Daniel, they caught you.Fire up that old spell check.
Kimberly Bonneau March 20, 2013 at 08:08 PM
This just ticks me off! My husband works hard to support our family. We are not wealthy but are just above the moderate income. Our house was your basic ranch nothing fancy. We had 5 yrs left on our mortgage. Now we don't know what were going to do. We have to raise the house. Without the grant money we will have to move. It's bad enough that we have to start over, but I made sure I got all the paperwork in with the understanding that money would be available. I don't know weather to cry or spit nails! Feel like was taken for a ride!!
Donnlee March 20, 2013 at 08:20 PM
More big govt/FEMA smoke and mirrors---the means test will ensure the ones getting grants will not have enough money to see rebuild/mitigation all the way through (isn't grant about $30,000. and cost to actually complete the work about twice that ? And don't you have to do all this upfront and submit the receipts and paperwork to actually get the money? Do contractors go ahead without money paid upfront? How could they!)Anyway those of incomes under $75000. will not be able to see this through. Aha! Government does not spend all that money---which I do not believe they have anyway. Unless they rev up the printing presses---which will make the money worth much less and everything cost much more.
Lisa Dabreau March 20, 2013 at 08:31 PM
Also, from what I've heard, that if you already have rebuilt or are in the process of rebuilding, you are NOT eligible for any of the funds. These funds will not be made available for at least 6 months. It's already 4 months post-Sandy, they expect people to wait 10-12 months to even think about starting to rebuild? That is BS!!!! I am in the process of rebuilding (thanks to being a little creative and having the help of a very good friend), but the insurance money I'm getting is still short by about $30,000 thanks to my adjuster telling me one amount and coming in $30,000 under that in his final report. We are all getting screwed, lower income, middle income, whatever, we are all screwed!
Art March 20, 2013 at 08:32 PM
Andy Pat - Good for you and by the way, I apologize for the assistance wisecrack. Now, are you one of the extra thousands of residents that find themselves in a flood zone because of the revised maps or do you already live on the water? If you are neither then you don't fully understand what we who are have to deal with. Second, I contribute to more charities and volunteer my time to more causes in a year then most do in a lifetime. Third, yes, I give courtesy to all politicians as well as all service members that I meet and strangers who extend courtesies by addressing them as either "Sir or Ma'am". But if someone pi$$e$ me off they get both barrels between the eyes. I've paid the way for thousands through my tax dollars. Now I'd like to see some of that come back to me. Call it selfish but I doubt I'm alone in this line of thinking.
Art March 20, 2013 at 08:36 PM
Enlighten us Chief. What don't we get?
Cherry Quay resident March 20, 2013 at 09:39 PM
Go to the meeting this week in Brick. STOP FEMA NOW !!!!!!!!! Go to www.stopfemanow.com Facebook; stop fema now Facebook; save our nj communities tx
sad but true March 20, 2013 at 09:56 PM
SO if your like us working family struggling making between 47,000 to 57,000 to much to get help ( considered to high income to be " low income") But not enough to make any repairs ourselves or replace the car we lost... FEMA Claim denied because we " don't make enough" $$ for even the grant .... BUT our pay checks decreased since the Beginning of the year, Just waiting for our taxes to go up .....I guess like many we are working poor.. my husband & I have actually thought about getting Divorced just so we can get some type of help I can claim to be a " single Mother of 3"
Baywood March 20, 2013 at 10:23 PM
OMG. We had the same discussion. We should get divorced and the one can give the other the house. When we cant afford the high insurance premiums, taxes or elevating and walk away someone will have clean credit to start over. Does any know if the means testing for income is before or after taxes?I am guessing before.
KC March 21, 2013 at 03:17 AM
Your agenda might be better served if you simply gave the details of where and when said meeting is to take place as not everyone chooses to get involved with Spacebook.
Cherry Quay resident March 21, 2013 at 03:43 AM
The meeting for STOP FEMA NOW is this Sunday at 1200 noon till 200 PM at the Brick Twp municipal building. It's an open discussion with Brick's mayor Steve Acropolis. I URGE EVERYONE to attend!!!! If you want to be heard GO to the meeting. I've been to most and they are informative. Brick's mayor has a home that was damaged and is feeling the same pain as we are........ Don't just sit here on the computer; get involved and STOP the INCORRECT FEMA MAPS and the WRONG FLOOD INSURANCE RULES that will KILL the shore communities as we know them.
Justine D March 21, 2013 at 05:12 AM
Looks like many of us are 'in the same boat'...Outraged over what is happening to our neighborhoods and furious over what we have to do to save our flood-damaged houses - ALONE! Shame on you if you are a hard working American,( sometimes 2 jobs), to get ahead and put money away for a future. Shame on you if you have a small retirement fund that you have been building for the last 30 years. Shame on you if you had flood insurance, because you believed that was the responsible thing to do for your family's protection. Shame on you!
Justine D March 21, 2013 at 05:14 AM
I guess it's pretty apparent that we are fighting a losing battle. The government doesn't want us to be independent , self-reliant or self-supporting. This would put them out of a J.O.B.! Wake up people! This didn't JUST start happening....we've been seeing our country's demise for the last decade - or more. The well-meaning Government programs that were designed to assist the less fortunate, will cause our country to fall from within. Unfortunately, as storm-affected residents of Brick, we all had a serious dose of reality. THIS is a small sense of what America will be like when the Government has complete control. I was mistaken when I thought the role of the Government was to protect our rights as citizens of the United States. Buy the people, for the people. I was also mistaken when I thought that our Insurance company would take care of our cost to rebuild, after all the years of paying premiums and never making a single claim. Do we give up? I, for one, will not! We all need to start thinking, 'The squeaky wheel gets the oil'. For most of us, it's not in our nature...however, our 'nature' needs to change, and quickly!! I agree with Art and Cherry Quay resident - we need to have a voice. We need to gather together and protest (that's still one of our slowly fading constitutional rights ....) as a unified body of people with the same purpose. This should guarantee some much needed press and exposure.
Justine D March 21, 2013 at 05:14 AM
The insurance companies and FEMA want us to give up. Their systems, procedures, and forms were all designed to frustrate and confuse - not help you through a disaster. They create a larger disaster than the Super-storm we just survived. Unaffected people all over our country are forgetting what happened on October, 29th 2012. WE are still living it! The local and national news teams are on-to- the- next- story. WE are the only ones that can keep it current and create our own 'buzz'. Let's make sure to pass on any information about future meetings for 'Stop FEMA Now', or similar interest groups. The more, the better. Don't give up people! We need to save ourselves, our town, and our way of life!
JHill March 21, 2013 at 12:25 PM
Do we have a list of people who got the free money "grants" that the mayor was talking about a few months ago that the Township was hnading out? It has to be on some public record somewhere.
Exit98 March 21, 2013 at 04:34 PM
Hey Christie, ads for the casinos don't help the people without homes. $25million on tourism , what a joke!
DDJA March 21, 2013 at 08:51 PM
To our Government: HOW MUCH MORE DO YOU WANT TO SQUEEZE OUT OF THE MIDDLE CLASS????????????? We work hard and do the right thing....and THIS is what we get. Nice incentive for people like me who work hard. Is ANYONE standing by the middle class anymore....Seriously!!!
DDJA March 21, 2013 at 08:56 PM
PEOPLE NEED TO START PROTESTING....THIS IS HORSE *&#^%. Soooo angry right now. I pay so much money in taxes, insurance, etc, and this is what we get.....money only going to the lower income.
DDJA March 21, 2013 at 09:00 PM
Cherry Quay resident March 21, 2013 at 09:38 PM
Everyone is invited to the meeting on Sunday. Brick Municipal building; noon. It's important that everyone attend; this needs to be a showing of power by the people that are getting squeezed. The middle class are always paying for everyone else. The Sandy aid money should ONLY go to people that were directly affected by the storm. THIS ISN'T A WELFARE OFFERING OR A METHOD TO PUT UP MORE LOW INCOME HOUSING!!!! ENOUGH!!!!
Cherry Quay resident March 21, 2013 at 09:38 PM
STOP FEMA NOW !!!!!!!!!!!
Art March 22, 2013 at 12:25 AM
Strength in numbers. Let's do this. Sunday at noon. Brick Municipal Complex.
Karly C March 22, 2013 at 10:09 AM
Come to our meeting this weekend at noon - Sunday. We need to Stop Fema Now! Brick Mumicipal bldg
Brick rez March 22, 2013 at 01:36 PM
should have listen to Mitt Romney when he said to do away with FEMA & everyone thought he was wrong for saying that.... PS has anyone seem Obama down here since he got elected in??
James Ward March 23, 2013 at 03:15 AM
70% of the 600M allocated for RREM goes to Median/Low income households, the remaining 30% would be 1st come 1st served. Reminder the deadline to file with FEMA through SBA is APRIL 1!! ...lets hope we see more relief at those #'s there will be thousands with no hope for aid.
J.JONES March 23, 2013 at 02:13 PM
When the hundreds of families walk away from there home cause they can't afford to fix or just pay any longer that PUBLIC ASSISTANCE AND FREE PERKS WILL GO OUT OF CONTROL...COMING SOON TO A TOWN NEAR YOU ..
Mrs. G. March 24, 2013 at 03:52 PM
Call me crazy - I don't think anyone should get grants to maintain their home. I have had to do things to my home in order to get a better rate on my homeowner's insurance policy. I am talking about replacing items that were functional and in excdellent condition. However, the insurance company felt storms would destroy the original structure. You buy a home, you maintain it. I have a home on the water, and it was built AND maintained with a storm in mind - no Sandy damage. Should I get a grant because I did the right thing up front??? By the way, have you driven down some of the streets in Brick? I thought safe driving conditions (drivable roads) were a part of BASIC tax services. Now we are going to foot the bill for wealthy people to IMPROVE their homes? Note to township leaders: tax payments should start to go into escrow a/c's until the right thing is done for the ENTIRE town!
Art March 24, 2013 at 07:26 PM
Mrs G-Please define "wealthy" for me. Just because a person has a house on the water doesn't mean they are wealthy. You said you have a home on the water. Is it your primary residence or is it a second home? If it's a second home then you must be wealthy. This is Brick, NJ not Rumson or Deal, NJ. There are not a lot of wealthy people in Brick. The mean income in my zip code is a little over $66K. Hardly what I would call wealthy by any standard. My waterfront home is my primary residence. Do you feel the same way about hurricane victims in Louisianna and Texas? How about mudslide victims in California or tornado victims in Kansas?
Christine Cathcart March 30, 2013 at 02:41 AM
If moderate to low income people are getting help financially, how come I haven't gotten any help? My insurance company denying wind damage, but roof is now leaking and have mold, but FEMA says I'm not eligible for SBA loan because I can't afford to pay it back, so, what do I do??????


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