Thousands Still Awaiting State Funds; Many Are Furious

FREEPORT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The New York Rising program was set up by the state to help victims of Superstorm Sandy rebuild, but many have said the program has failed to deliver.

As CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, of the thousands of Long Island residents who have applied, only five have received grants so far.

“I’d like to meet somebody who has gotten a check from New York Rising,” said Sam Gallo of Long Beach.

Gallo said she has received her “congratulations” letter saying she is eligible for funds, but still no money. Thousands like her are still waiting for promised recovery funds.

“We are out of the house still, because of the government; because really, we are being failed,” Katie Fazekas of Freeport said recently. “We were abandoned.”

Fazekas has been living with relatives, and calls the system to distribute millions in federal funds to victims of Superstorm Sandy incompetent.

More than 20,000 applications for New York Rising funds have submitted, but on Long Island, only 4,600 award letters have gone out, and of that, only five have received checks.

The rest said they are jumping through bureaucratic hoops.

“I just can’t even get into the list of the paperwork they want, and then when you provide it, they send you an email that says the the requirements have changed — now they want this paperwork,” Gallo said.

Residents were furious at a recent community meeting in Freeport.

“My case worker knows tiddly-winks,” one woman said. “Every time I call him, he goes, ‘I don’t know.’”

Nearly 100 storm victims gathered for the meeting Monday. Listening to their complaints was Jon Kaiman, Long Island storm czar the New York Rising agency. He said making sure claims are legitimate takes time.

“We need to make sure that the money that we’re sending is to the right place. We need to make sure that the money that gets sent is for the damage that exists,” Kaiman asid.

But homeowners said they cannot get straight answers or callbacks.

“My savings is gone, my retirement is gone, and New York Rising keeps telling me to be patient,” Gallo said.

A spokesman for New York Rising said more checks will soon be in the mail in four to six weeks. An additional 2,000 approval letters will be mailed out through the new year, the spokeswoman said.

There was no word on timing for thousands of others still waiting.

Statewide, 4,200 people have been approved for New York Rising grants so far, but there was no word on how many have received their grants. The program’s spokesman did not respond to repeated requests for an interview.

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