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Some residents on Long Island still waiting for federal funds after Sandy

Jim Hoffer reports on Superstorm Sandy victims waiting for funds
December 24, 2013 3:23:42 PM PST
Thousands of Superstorm Sandy victims on Long Island will be spending their second Christmas out of their homes.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in federal money to help these homeowners rebuild has already been approved.

So why haven't they gotten that money?

"It's rough, now we're going through another Christmas without being home," said Christa Higbee.

Choking back tears, Christa Higbee carries the weight of a now 14 month struggle to get her family back into their storm-hit Long Island home.

"We are disheartened, we are discouraged. I don't know what to say," she adds.

Like thousands of Long Islanders whose homes were heavily damaged by Sandy, the Higbee's insurance company has fallen far short of the rebuilding costs she thought her premiums covered.

So, she like thousands of others began a bureaucratic odyssey to get federal funds/

Hoffer: And most of this applying for funds to rebuild?
Higbee: This is everything to rebuild

$484 million dollars that's supposed to be disbursed by the state to Sandy-hit Long Islanders. More than 4-thousand of them have received award letters:

"They told me that I am eligible for $83-thousand dollars," adds Higbee.

She hasn't seen a dime so she's drained both her husband's and her 401-K money to rebuild.

"We won't be retiring ever I am sure of it because of this," she adds.

After his insurance company short-changed him, Michael Katz also turned to the state's NY Rising program to get funds.

"Based on the information submitted you have met the initial program requirements," he said.

That was 10 months and stacks of paperwork ago.

Katz: Paperwork is my forte.
Hoffer: Where has it gotten you?
Katz: Nowhere, nowhere.

Katz says he understands the need to vet applicants to prevent fraud but Sandy hit in 2012, he says, it will soon be 2014.

Hoffer: when you come here, what goes through your mind?
Katz: I'm stifled. I want to cry. I want to cry!

Eyewitness News made repeated attempts over the past two weeks to get the latest numbers on those receiving funds, but the Governor's Office which talks a lot about transparency never provided us with the requested information.

What we do know is that those receiving checks are in a very small minority far out-numbered by those waiting 14 months after the storm.

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