By Alexander Lewis
MANVILLE – Two years after floodwaters from the remnants of Hurricane Ida devastated the borough, some residents are still waiting for the help to restore their properties and lives.
The New Jersey Organizing Project (NJOP), an organization founded in 2014 by Superstorm Sandy survivors, wants to help those Manville residents still looking for assistance and raise awareness of their plight.
“It’s been clear from the start that there is not enough federal funds allocated for New Jersey’s Hurricane Ida recovery,” said Meghan Mertyris, Hurricane Ida Organizer with NJOP. “If federal money is limited, then our state needs to step up, instead of leaving survivors to foot the bill.”
According to NJOP, in August 2023, some Hurricane Ida survivors in Manville were informed by New Jersey that they were no longer eligible for grant funding to repair or elevate their homes.
Their only options now are to accept a buyout or self-fund their recovery.
“Either I sell my home or take a buyout, rather than get assistance to stay in my home which I love,” said Manville resident Holly Fordham, a member of NJOP. “Why the heck did the policy change after we all wasted our time filling out repair and elevation applications? I had hoped for over a year that I would get funding to raise my home.”
“New Jersey had a historic budget surplus of $8.3 million last year, and unspent ARPA funds,” Mertyris said. “We can’t be left to bear the burden of a broken disaster recovery system, especially when our state has the ability to ensure that we all have a chance and a choice.”
NJOP contends that many storm survivors whose homes were damaged are still waiting for recovery funding in a process marked by roadblocks, setbacks and resource gaps.
“Since the disaster wrecked our lives, nothing has been done,” said Manville resident Rob Moskal, another NJOP member. “My family lost everything in Ida, and we’re still waiting (for help.)”
NJOP is arguing that New Jersey has the responsibility and resources to fill these gaps and urge the state to direct funding towards a fair recovery process.
Delays and shortcomings in federal funding have left survivors waiting years for essential aid to rebuild, replace or elevate their homes, according to NJOP.
Six months after Ida, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development allocated $228 million in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funding to New Jersey. NJOP campaigned for additional funding, bringing the total amount of federal funds up to $377 million.
Applications for these aid programs were made available in March 2023, more than 18 months after Ida.
Survivors are still waiting for recovery grants to be approved and distributed, a process which the Department of Community Affairs previously estimated would begin in June, NJOP said, adding that less than 200 Ida survivors in New Jersey received continued rental assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a resource survivors depend on when displaced by storm damage or repairs.