New Jersey Flood Victims Have Received $116M in Federal Aid

By | September 30, 2011

Dina Zampelle expects that by December, her credit score will be as muddied as her central New Jersey home.

That’s because unless the government jumps in to help, she expects the bank to foreclose.

“I owe $290,000 on that house. And I’m not paying it,” the Howell Township resident said Wednesday. “What is the bank going to do to me? Foreclose on me in December? That’s not fair. But unless I get a buyout, that’s most certainly what’s going to happen.”

Zampelle has applied for federal aid, but hasn’t seen a check yet.

Thousands of others have, however. So far, 54,000 people in New Jersey have seen more than $116 million in federal disaster aid come their way, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno said Wednesday as she and other state and FEMA officials toured Zampelle’s street.

“It’s not enough, but it’s a great step forward,” Guadagno said of the aid distributed so far.

Most of it has been used to pay for housing and other residential needs; about $12 million went toward low-interest disaster loans primarily for homeowners, renters, businesses and nonprofit organizations throughout the state, officials said.

Guadagno encouraged all residents affected by the floods to apply for aid, even if they have flood insurance or aren’t certain of their eligibility.

Flood victims have until Oct. 31 to apply for federal assistance with FEMA.

“Let’s make sure you get all that you are entitled to,” Guadagno told residents. “I think it’s our collective attitude that the federal government should pay for exactly what you see here today. They should help our people. That is what the federal government should be spending its money on.”

Zampelle said she would take any help. She’s been renting a house after she and her family, including her adult daughter, who is 8 months pregnant, were rescued in the middle of the night by boat last month as flood waters from the storm that preceded Hurricane Irene came crashing through her kitchen, leaving 11 inches of standing water behind and her deck Jacuzzi in her dining room.

“It floated up and was thrown into my dining room because of the current” from the Manasquan River, Zampelle said.

By the time Irene came, damage was done. Then it got worse as the river near her home swelled and washed through her neighborhood.

Her home was not in a flood zone and she doesn’t have flood insurance.

Zampelle said she can’t afford a mortgage and rent, so the mortgage has gone unpaid. She said she’s willing to take the $60,000 loss in equity on her home. She’s more afraid of losing something else: “I’m afraid for my credit.”

“Without good credit,” she asked, “what am I ever going to have again?”

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