Nearly 1,000 families still not back in homes damaged six and a half years ago by Superstorm Sandy will be able to apply to the state for supplemental recovery funds beginning in early summer.

Gov. Phil Murphy and U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez were among the state and federal officials on hand Monday at the Shark River Municipal Marina in Neptune to announce changes to the state’s Sandy recovery programs designed to help homeowners finally make it over the finish line.

The changes were approved Feb. 22 by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which funds the program, and announced by the state Monday.

“For many New Jerseyans, Sandy is just a memory,” Murphy said. "But for roughly a thousand families still rebuilding through the state’s programs, Superstorm Sandy never left.”

“With this significant amount of new funding and rental assistance, we now have hope that all Sandy families will have the financial support they need to finish their rebuilding projects, to return home and to truly make New Jersey whole again after the worst natural disaster in our state’s history,” he said.

Two big changes were announced.

The $150,000 limit on grants through the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation, and Mitigation (RREM) Program and Low-to-Moderate Income (LMI) Homeowner Rebuilding Program is being lifted through a new ‘supplemental fund’ providing additional construction funds. So long as a homeowner stays in their home for five years, the additional zero-interest loan won’t have to be repaid.

“The supplemental fund is going to make it possible to return the safety, the security, the comfort and the predictability that we all know as home,” said Kevin McGee, executive director of the St. Bernard’s Project in New Jersey.

Additionally, families who are receiving up to $1,300 a month in rental assistance are now eligible to receive benefits for an additional 19 months – 40 months in total, rather than 21. Murphy said some “could have faced financial ruin” by paying both a mortgage and rent if the program expired in June.

“They all share the same dream of returning home and getting on with their lives,” Menendez said. “Their marathon is not yet over, but today I see the finish line on the horizon.”​

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