Construction Report, 2013
Since the Cumberland County LTRG first approved construction projects in June of 2013, we have undertaken and financed repairs at seven residences. Each of these homes is occupied by Sandy survivors who met the Cumberland County LTRG’s protocols for assistance; they are either low-income families, elderly, disabled, or otherwise disadvantaged, and as such are burdened heavily by the expense and distress of disaster recovery.
One home, located in Shiloh, is occupied by an elderly widow. After the storm, she spent months collecting in buckets, tubs and pitchers rainwater that dripped through her roof in dozens of places. Aside from damage to her roof, there was significant damage to her home’s electrical system. All of this damage has been repaired, and her home is now safe, secure and dry.
At a home in Hopewell Township, a tree felled by the storm caused considerable damage to the roof of the home, causing water inundation which ruined the insulation and led to the growth of mold. One of the areas of the home most impacted by the damage was the bedroom of an adolescent girl with special needs; water was pouring in through the roof and soaking the insulation in the ceiling and the carpeting in the room. The home’s roof has since been repaired, the soaked insulation and carpet have been removed, and the mold caused by the inundation has been fully cleansed. In the coming weeks the finish work, including replacing damaged ceiling panels and carpet, will be completed, and the home will be fully restored to pre-Sandy conditions.
In Port Norris, an elderly cancer survivor suffered severe damage to both her home’s structure, including the roof and floor, as well as the electrical systems in the home. The floor of the home was so damaged by the flooding caused by the storm surge that it was starting to collapse in some places. In recent weeks the floor of the home has been completely repaired, the damaged roof has been sealed, the electrical systems have been rewired and are not safe, and the water-damaged carpets and paneling have been replaced.
Each of the families assisted through direct construction by the Cumberland County LTRG has a similar story, and every resident so assisted is now safer and more secure than they were in the immediate aftermath of the storm.
To date, the Cumberland County LTRG has financed nearly $48,000 worth of direct-assistance construction projects on behalf of Sandy victims in Cumberland County, with more construction set to begin in the coming weeks.
Volunteer Report, 2013
Over the summer, a volunteer contingent from the Lord of Life Lutheran Church spent a week working in Cumberland County. In total 17 individual residents and/or families received some level of help from the volunteers. The volunteer group was comprised of 20 high school students and 12 adult overseers. Some of the adult volunteers brought a considerable degree of construction experience, and were able to facilitate the completion of skilled and semi-skilled tasks.
Overall, the volunteers from Lord of Life contributed an estimated 960 hours of service to residents in three townships, and to the CCCLTRG organization.
There were no reported injuries as a result of the volunteer’s activities, and the volunteers were able to experience some enrichment and entertainment activities around the area.
The volunteer effort was also aided by the Downe Township municipal government, who graciously utilized township resources to remove trash and debris generated by the effort.
The entire initiative also would not have been possible had it not been for the extreme generosity of the Downe Township Elementary School and BOE, who provided a safe, cool and clean space for the volunteers to spend the week.
For a video about the Lord of Life Lutheran Church work mission, follow this link.
Volunteers from the American Baptist Church were active in Cumberland County, along with several other counties, during the week of August 12-16.
In Cumberland County the American Baptists spent time at four different residences in four separate municipalities; senior members of the volunteer delegation also assisted with small projects at the LTRG office. Tasks for residents included mucking and gutting of structures that were, or currently are, having roofs repaired by the LTRG. This was done in preparation for any mold remediation that must be done in any of the locations.
The volunteers also cleaned up a woman’s yard that was in disarray since Sandy’s landfall and did some painting at the LTRG office.
In total, the American Baptist volunteers contributed a conservatively estimated 410 hours to the LTRG. Across four days. This represented only a fraction of their contribution to South Jersey, as over 100 of them were active all week in various counties and localities.
Aside from specific tasks completed by the volunteers, they also helped provide outreach and emotional support to those of our residents with persistent unmet needs.
While the efforts of volunteer groups such as the American Baptists are greatly appreciated, we are reaching the point in the recovery process where skilled volunteers are needed to help close the gaps between unmet needs and the means of our residents. Skilled roofers, carpenters, mold remediation experts, and contractors would be greatly appreciated here in Cumberland County, as we seek to restore our residents’ homes to livable conditions.
In October, Lutheran volunteers spent several days hanging drywall and replacing paneling and insulation in one home that was damaged by Sandy. Volunteer hours for this effort totaled approximately 50.
On Saturday, November 2, 2013 the LTRG held a “service day” in conjunction with our One-Year Anniversary Outreach Event. On that day, volunteers from area rotary clubs worked on two homes, replacing a damaged stairway and deck that provided entry to one home, and doing some painting and finish work at another residence where the Lutheran volunteers were engaged in October. Volunteer hours for this service day, which also included Sunday the 3rd, totaled about 70, and costs incurred by the LTRG were minimal, and were spend on timber, hardware, paint and painting supplies.
Total external, construction-related volunteer hours for the LTRG are an estimated 1630. By current NJ rates, that figure carries an estimated dollar value of $46,455.00.
Other large-scale volunteer engagements are in the process of being scheduled for 2014. These efforts will be coordinated with LTRGs in neighboring counties, to maximize efficiency and assist as many NJ residents as possible in the recovery process.
Currently, the Cumberland County LTRG and our recovery partners are processing the cases of approximately 150 storm-impacted families. Without the tireless efforts of our advocacy partners, most notably the Family Success Center of Commercial Township and Catholic Charities, Camden Diocese, we would not be able to function as a resource for Cumberland’s most vulnerable residents.
Recently, the Cumberland County LTRG has received a substantial grant from the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund that will allow us to add capacity to our advocacy team, and more efficiently allocate assistance to those residents of Cumberland County who are still struggling to recover from Sandy’s devastation.
Fighting for Cumberland County Sandy Victims
Since the state of New Jersey announced its Action Plan for distributing federal Sandy relief money to state residents in the spring of 2013, the Cumberland County LTRG has been a leading advocate for the right of all New Jersey residents to be considered for these funds.
What follows is a summary explanation of how the state has distributed the billions of dollars in federal funds, and why it is important for all New Jersey residents to be eligible for such funds, which are distributed through the Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery program.
The state developed an Action Plan in the spring of 2013 to guide the implementation of this program which has been allocated $1,829,520,000 by HUD as part of the state’s initial $5.4 billion allocation.
- CDBG-DR funds must be used to address “unmet needs” which are defined in the Action Plan’s executive summary as “financial needs not satisfied by other public or private funding sources like FEMA Individual Assistance funds, Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loans or private insurance.”
These funds are also to focus predominantly on the state’s most impacted counties (Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean and Union counties) and the state’s low and moderate-income populations. CDBG-DR funds provided through the act are also subject to “guidance” by HUD. As an example, it is mandated that each grantee (NJ/program) must expend 80% of the total funding received though the CDBG-DR program within the nine most impacted counties.
- Currently, the state is no longer accepting applications for the two programs that operate under the auspices of the CDBG-DR Action Plan. These programs are the Homeowner Resettlement Grant and the Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Elevation and Mitigation Program (RREM). Details about each of these funding sources are included in section 3. Information about the programs and how to sign up are available at www.renewjerseystronger.org.
The initial application period for these two programs ended June 30, and the deadline for the second wave of applicants was August 1. To date applications from Cumberland County residents have not been considered for these programs, though they were encouraged to apply.
- A second version of the Action Plan is under development, and a second round of funding to the Community Development Block Grant Program in the amount of $1.4 billion is being provided to the State of New Jersey for Sandy recovery assistance. According to Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable the bulk of this funding will go towards infrastructure needs in affected communities throughout the state. Of the portion that will go towards individual homeowners and renters, the majority will be put into existing programs such as the RREM fund and awarded to persons currently on the waiting lists for those programs. Commissioner Constable also indicated that this second wave of relief funds will not be available to residents of the state outside of the “nine most impacted counties”.
- A public review period of the new Action Plan will be conducted once the draft plan is finalized, likely in the early weeks of 2014, and will remain open for public comment for thirty days. Once the public comment period is over, the plan will be forwarded to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, where it will be considered for a period of 60 days, and either sent back for revision or accepted.
- The Cumberland County Long Term Recovery Group has advocated since the inception of these CDBG-DR programs for the inclusion of all New Jersey residents, regardless of their county of residence. The Cumberland LTRG also strongly urges everyone to provide input into the plan during the public comment period.
The Cumberland County LTRG Website has officially launched! Please visit the site at www.CumberlandLTRG.org
for information about long term recovery efforts in Cumberland County!