*FEMA has introduced a new program, STEP (Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power) to assist homeowners make their damaged homes liveable.
Two weeks ago Hurricane Sandy tore through the New York tri-state area. Thousands of low lying homes and businesses across the length of Long Island are severely damaged or are unlivable after experiencing severe flooding from the storm.
Many homes have been completely destroyed or condemned as a result of the storm damages, and even thousands more are so damaged that power cannot be turned back on until major repairs or renovations have been completed. FEMA has set up numerous disaster assistance outposts across Long Island for residents to file for assistance. But that assistance is not helping the current housing crunch as of now.
While FEMA has approved applications for transitional housing assistance, which would pay for at least a portion of the cost of temporary shelter for thousands of families, the housing shortage on Long Island means the area cannot meet the demand for available housing, rentals or even hotels. According to local reports, FEMA has resorted to offering hotels as far away as Albany.
While residents from affected areas are working to get their homes cleaned out and repaired so they can start putting their lives back together again, some have returned to work and sent their children back to school. These residents simply cannot be relocated to housing that is hours and hours away from home.
Meanwhile, workers have been shipped in from out of state to work on getting power back on for the thousands of customers who are still in the dark. But with no available rooms in the area many have been forced to sleep in their work trucks. The Commack Fire Department has opened their doors to out of state workers this week to help house and feed some of these workers.
*Update: With 80,000 homes in the tristate area that were so damaged that power cannot be turned back on until repairs are made, FEMA has established a new program to assist residents to get quickly back into their storm damaged homes by repairing just enough to be able to safely turn the power back on.
This program will provide homeowners with contractors who will be brought in to make "quick fix" repairs to make storm damaged homes liveable during longer term renovations. The cost of the program will be largely shouldered by the federal government.
With the cold weather upon us, scarce housing options and no room to bring in temporary trailersJerry Hauer, commissioner of New Yorks Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services states that the STEP program has been introduced and is a first for this country. "This takes the homes that are marginally inhabitable and makes them habitable so people get back into their homes."