Survey Looks For Sandy Problems And Solutions

The damage caused by Superstorm Sandy in the Brick area. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

OCEAN COUNTY – As part of a recent survey, 71 percent of people affected by Superstorm Sandy stated that they are suffering from increased physical or mental health issues that are directly related to the storm.

This is a snapshot of an incomplete survey called the Sandy Truth Project. It is being used to understand more clearly the issues that are still affecting survivors more than four years later. And it needs your voice.

The survey is online at newjerseyop.org/sandy-truth-project.html.

  The group behind it, the New Jersey Organizing Project, is an advocacy group that started two years after Sandy with the goal of making sure that people were getting the help they needed, said its director, Amanda Devecka-Rinear. Now, four years and four months after the storm, there are still people affected in unprecedented ways.

“Sandy recovery is failing,” she said. “Where are we in recovery? Are we prepared for future storms?”

They are looking for transparency in how aid for Sandy is allocated. How much of the money went to consulting firms rather than residents, for example.

Currently, they are pushing for the foreclosure bill (A333/S2300) that would provide a cushion for those who are facing foreclosure on their homes.

One of the more recent issues is clawbacks, said member Joe Mangino. Sometimes a homeowner has had to give money back. People have been receiving vague letters stating that they owe money to the government without any explanation, he said.

“The homeowner now has to do more legwork,” he said. There never seems to be an end to the issues.

There also is no hard deadline for the end of the survey period, he said. The group is using it as an opportunity to expand as an organization and find more ways to help residents.

(Photo courtesy of Toms River Township)

The mission statement for NJOP is quite broad: “We work together to pass policies that make life better for everyday people, change institutions, hold corporations accountable and ensure elected officials stand with us, their constituents.” Their first initiative was the “Finish the Job” campaign in 2014, because too few people were back in their homes. A lot of money was still being withheld.

Previous campaigns have centered on getting more accessible guidelines for how to file for aid, contractor fraud, foreclosures, and getting people off waitlists for funding.

Formed in 2014 by nine Sandy survivors, the New Jersey Organizing Project is a non-profit, with no political affiliation. Other issues they are addressing are climate change and cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and other health care programs. The group recently held two kick-off meetings for 2017 in Manahawkin and Brick.

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Chris Lundy is News Editor at Micromedia. He has covered Ocean County news and features in various publications since 2003. Lundy worked for Gannett with articles in The Beacon, Observer and Asbury Park Press. He's also written for the Community Connection, Patch and ShoreBeat.